George tells his friend Lennie to familiarize himself with the clearing by the river where they are camping because he wants him to come back to that exact spot and hide and wait for him if he should get into trouble at the ranch where they are going to be working starting the next day. George has had a lot of trouble with Lennie in the past, for one reason or another, and he is anticipating trouble at their new job. This is what he says in Chapter 1:
"Look, Lennie, I want you to look around here. You can remember this place, can't you? The ranch is about a quarter of a mile up that way. Just follow the river."
"Sure," said Lennie. "I can remember this. Di'n't I remember about not gonna say a word?"
"Course you did. Well, look. Lennie--if you jus' happen to get in trouble like you always done before, I want you to come right here an' hide in the brush."
George will know exactly where to find Lennie when he does get into serious trouble at the ranch by accidentally killing Curley's wife, so the story will end neatly where it began in the peaceful setting by the river.
It was George's decision to sleep by the river although they were only about a quarter of a mile from the ranch, where they could have gotten dinner and bunks to sleep in. He tells Lennie:
"I like it here. Tomorra we're gonna go to work. I seen thrashin' machines on the way down. That means we'll be bucking grain bags, bustin' a gut. Tonight I'm gonna lay right here and look up. I like it."
The boss will be angry when they show up late for work the next day. The crews have already gone out into the fields and George and Lennie will miss a whole day's productive work at a time when the boss is shorthanded. George's attitude is a good way of characterizing him. He is smart, independent, resentful of authority. This helps to explain why he wants to own his own farm. The boss will take an immediate dislike to him because he will sense George's potentially rebellious attitude.