By BILLY WESSELS and GARRETT HALE, The Daily Light
6:55 a.m. - We stop at Donuts Etc. in Palmer. The owner was very nice. He accidentally charged us $3.86, when it was $3.74. He did all the work over again to save us 12 cents. Also, Palmer has a beautiful sunrise.
7 a.m. - We arrive at the Pct. 1 barn with doughnuts in hand and park on the shoulder about 500 feet away.
7:10 a.m. - We try to look for a better place to watch the barn. We go behind the barn and find a very nice house. While trying to turn around three large dogs chase the car. One actually keeps up with the car. Billy yells at the dog “Get out of the way. I don’t want to hit you.”
7:30 a.m. - We decide to stick to parking on the shoulder.
7:47 a.m. - The first work truck leaves the barn. The truck takes a wrong turn out of the barn and has to do a U-turn right behind us. We thought the gig was up. As the truck turns around we do a sigh of relief and take off towards the truck going north on I-45.
7:56 a.m. - We take the exit for Ferris and head downtown.
8 a.m. - The work truck reaches it’s destination at the corner of Magellan Circle and Zodiac Strait. Workers begin doing their job by attaching a hose to a fire hydrant and construction begins on what appears to be a dead-end street.
8:09 a.m. - We head back to the Pct. 1 barn to follow another truck.
8:24 a.m. - Anthony (Trojan) calls us to see how things are going in Pct. 1. No one has left from Pct. 3 yet.
8:45 a.m. - A small white truck leaves the barn and heads down the road behind the barn where our dog fans live.
8:51 a.m. - The small white truck meets a gravel truck on Palmyra Road. The driver of the small truck gets out of his car and waves us around the gravel truck. We drive past the trucks, get our bearings and circle back to try and get a picture. Garrett shimmies into the back seat of the car to get a better shot.
9:05 a.m. - We return to the Pct. 1 barn.
9:13 a.m. - Another small truck leaves the barn, after little careful consideration, we decide to follow the truck to it’s destination.
9:26 a.m. - The truck appears to be driven by a very important person as he fixes his hair in his rear view mirror.
9:36 a.m. - The truck reached its destination, the Ellis County Courthouse in Waxahachie. The driver of the vehicle appears to be Pct. 1 Commissioner Dennis Robinson. After that we went back to the barn to find another truck.
10:05 a.m. - We stopped at Palmer Mart to grab some soda and burritos. Refueled, we went back to the Pct. 1 barn.
10:10 a.m. - Seeing that no trucks were leaving the barn, we decide to eat our burritos on the shoulder.
10:20 a.m. - We called back to the office to see what was going on and we were reassigned to cover an accident in Waxahachie.
By KELSIE HAHN,The Daily Light
6:32 a.m. - Leave home
6:53 a.m. - Call (staff writer) Anthony (Trojan), the one with a map — determine I had turned the wrong way down Highway 34 to get to Oak Grove, the street the Pct. 2 barn is located.
7:02 a.m. - Arrive at the Pct.
7:08 a.m. - A truck with one passenger leaves. I bide my time.
7:12 a.m. - Trucks begin filling gravel
7:32 a.m. - Pothole-filling crew leaves, and I follow. They very courteously pull onto the shoulder to let me pass, so I pull back. I pretend I think the shoulder is also a lane.
7:46 a.m. - Arrive at Bardwell — crew member goes into gas station.
7:50 a.m. - Leave Bardwell, take various rural roads.
8:24 a.m. - Arrive at intersection of Gillespie Road and Goodwyn Road. The work truck raises the bed, but no other activity. I park in the shade to avoid the heat, and begin to suspect I would make a poor spy.
8:50 a.m. - A deputy from the sheriff’s department arrives, saying they had a call from the truck that they were being followed, possibly by a man. I explain my assignment, and the officer asks for identification. I give him my press credentials (lucky we remembered to make them yesterday). He goes and explains the situation to the crew and leaves.
8:53 a.m. - Two-man crew begins work, one driving, one pouring asphalt and gravel into potholes. I follow, slowly.
8:55 a.m. - (Daily Light Managing Editor) JoAnn (Livingston) calls, asking if I had a run-in with the sheriff — she heard about it over the police scanner.
8:56 a.m. - Receive text message from (staff writer) Mandy (Bourgeois): “Some people have real jobs. I however get to watch other people work while I listen to XM.”
8:58 a.m. - I text: “They called the sheriff on me.”
9 a.m. - Mandy texts: “Oh my gosh, did it get cleared up? Are you going to get arrested?”
9:02 a.m. - I text: “Yeah, they thought I was a man.”
9:07 a.m. - Mandy texts again — we need laptops with wireless.
9:20 a.m. (or thereabouts) - A car drives by. The crew is working steadily.
9:40-ish a.m. - I take photos of a grasshopper in a field. I kneel in the road to get pictures of the repaired potholes, then stand up, now remembering the road is covered with new asphalt. I return to the car and air-conditioning, hoping something takes asphalt off denim.
9:50 a.m. - The crew takes a moment to rearrange some equipment, so I get out and apologize for the confusion earlier and ask if I can take their pictures. Both are very nice- they were just concerned about being followed around on the country roads with nobody else around.
“I’ve got kids at home,” one says. “I don’t take chances.”
10:03 a.m. - Anthony calls to play his radio for me. I’m very confused when Styx is the only response to my string of bewildered hello?-ing. I shut off the air-conditioner and open my windows to save on gas — it’s getting hot.
10:17 a.m. - Call (intern) Billy (Wessels) to see what he’s up to — he’s apparently taking drive-by photos of multiple crews.
10:20 a.m. - Call JoAnn to make sure I’m not supposed to be doing drive-by photos, but my slow chase is fine.
10:33 a.m. - Call comes in from JoAnn to return to base. The crew has carefully filled dozens of potholes along Gillespie, all in the span of about one tenth of a mile.
10:45 a.m. - My car stalls out as I attempt to ease over two of the most spectacular potholes in Ellis County on Farmer Road, exactly the same width apart as my tires. I fear I might be stuck, but I get out all right and take a photo for the pothole series. Steering is pulling to the right — I may need a realignment.
11:31 a.m. - Arrive back at the Daily Light office.
By ANTHONY TROJAN, The Daily Light
6:35 a.m. - Leave for Italy
6:53 a.m. - Kelsie calls, asks if she should have crossed Lake Bardwell on her way to the Pct. 2 barn. I tell her she shouldn’t have, and to turn around
7:05 a.m. - At the barn. There’s one truck here that looks like it’s been driven lately
7:18 a.m. - Somebody arrives, starts using front end loader to do something.
7:34 a.m. - Circle the barn, go get donuts and chocolate milk.
7:41 a.m. - I’m bored, so I call Mandy to see how things are going in Pct. 4.
8:12 a.m. - Commissioner Sims arrives; now using a grade-all, front-end loader, and a bobcat to load a big culvert on the trailer of an 18-wheeler.
8:04 a.m. - Mandy calls to see if anything going on in Pct. 3, says she is following a truck pulling a tractor on I-35. She asks how far east Pct. 4 goes, and if I think it might be going to get repaired. She adds that if it goes into Dallas County, she’s going back to the Pct. 4 barn.
8:24 a.m. - Bored, call Billy and Garrett in Pct. 1. They’re apparently following everybody.
8:26 a.m. - Two guys leave in a truck, then come back after a little while.
9 a.m. - Tractor-trailer, dump truck, grade-all, and a pickup line up at barn gates.
9:11 a.m. - They leave; follow the semi and the pickup.
9:12 a.m. - call JoAnn, let her know finally doing something other than making laps around barn.
9:14 a.m. - Semi pulls over, driver and the driver of the pickup get out to tighten chains on culvert.
9:22 a.m. - Call Mandy, tell I’m moving.
9:36 a.m. - Arrive on Joanna Lane, guessing will put new culvert in where Flat Rock Branch crosses road.
9:37 a.m. - Semi gets stuck trying to turn around.
9:49 a.m. - Dump truck being used to pull semi out.
10 a.m. - Semi now turned around, backs down road next to creek
10:03 a.m. - Hear Styx song on radio, decide to call Kelsie and hold phone up to speaker. Hang up after chorus.
10:03:48 a.m. - call Kelsie back to explain what was going on; decide to wait for another good song to do same thing to Mandy or Billy and Garrett.
10:04 a.m. - Crew uses grade-all to hold culvert on trailer, guys undo chains.
10:11 a.m. - Culvert rolls off trailer.
10:12 a.m. - Crew uses grade-all to push culvert enough to get chains out.
10:20 a.m. - Guys take a break.
10:35 a.m. - JoAnn calls, tells to come on back to office about same time guys leaving with equipment.
By MANDY BOURGEOIS, The Daily Light
6:30 a.m. - I set off from my home for the Ellis County Pct. 4 barn located in Midlothian. I notice that it is still dark — I am never up this early.
6:45 a.m. - I arrive at the barn quicker than I thought I would. There is only one truck at the barn. I decide I have time to drive to a convenience store to get a coke before my undercover operative begins.
6:50 a.m. - I see a Walgreens. I think, all Walgreens are open 24 hours, right? Walgreens carries carbonated beverages, right? However, the Midlothian Walgreens doesn’t open until 7 a.m. But, I do notice that the morning has produced a beautiful sunrise, so I take a few pictures. The sight of a sunrise is another rarity in my life.
6:53 a.m. - I stop at the Shell station and pick up a Dr. Pepper.
6:59 a.m. - I am back at the barn and have parked in the parking lot next to the barn. I am waiting anxiously for the first crew to head out and attack the day!
7:10 a.m. - I move to the opposite side of the street so I can really see the activity at the barn.
7:20 a.m. - I am still at the barn.
7:37 a.m. - I leave the barn “in pursuit” of two county dump trucks, one of which is pulling a bulldozer on a trailer. We travel down Eastgate, then south on 287, then north on I-35.
7:41 a.m. - Anthony calls - I rejoice that I have someone to follow, while he remains parked across the street of a Precinct 3 barn, awaiting activity.
7:52 a.m. - The truck pulling the bulldozer pulls off of I-35 at the Phillips 66 station at I-35 and FM 387. Driver goes inside - I wait in the parking lot. I don’t know where the other truck is.
7:57 a.m. - We’re back on the road, going down 387, then traveling north on State Highway 77.
8:04 a.m. - I call Anthony and ask exactly how far east I should be going if I am staying in Pct. 4 - we’re east of 77 now on Becky between Red Oak and Waxahachie. I am convinced that the driver is simply taking the bulldozer to get repaired, while elsewhere in the precinct there is a crew doing some awesome pothole repair and I am missing it all.
8:10 a.m. - The truck pulling the bulldozer stops at the 200 block of Catawba. The other truck is at this location. I realize the crew I have followed only involves two people. The crew unloads the bulldozer.
8:45 a.m. - I step out to take pictures of the work, and introduce myself to the crew. One crewmember says that they will be cleaning out the ditches along the road today. They’ve already replaced four culverts on the block. The cleaning will decrease the chance of flooding in the neighborhood of really nice homes.
A crewmember takes a seat in the bulldozer and begins filling one dump truck with dirt from the culvert. The other crewmember serves as a flagger for traffic if needed (there is very little traffic on this road) and helps direct the bulldozer.
9 a.m. - I send text to Kelsie - something about our task of watching other people work being absolutely awesome.
9:03 a.m. - Kelsie texts, “They called the sheriff on me.”
9:04 a.m. - I text, “Oh my gosh did it get cleared up? Are you going to get arrested?
9:05 a.m. - Kelsie texts, “Yeah they thought I was a man.”
9:18 a.m. - An Ellis County Pct. 4 Ford truck comes along and pulls up next to the bulldozer and truck.
9:20 a.m. - The truck pulls next to my car and asks if they are going to be in the paper. I tell him that I’m pretty sure they will be, but I’m not sure what the finished product will look like. The Ford leaves.
9:22 a.m. - Anthony calls and says that he finally has a crew to tail.
10 a.m. - The dump truck filled with dirt leaves the scene. Bulldozer continues working.
10:25 a.m. - Dump truck comes back with no dirt in the truck.
10:37 a.m. - JoAnn calls to inform me that the undercover operative is finished for the day and to head back to the office.