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The Trailblazers

The Canine Caper in Region 15

E. J. Woodrow

Currently there is much hoop-de-doo about persons on the Hill payroll for work not performed 9 to 5. But how about a worker performing technical service on a continuing basis without payroll compensation?

It happened in Region 15. It was tolerated, even encouraged. Fortunately it was a pre-Jack Anderson irregularity; otherwise, black clouds might have hung over the scandal-free reputation of the Roanoke Division of the Bureau of Public Roads.

By way of background, it should be explained that on construction projects, the contractor is paid unit prices for units of work performed - X dollars for each cubic yard of concrete complete in place, Y dollars for each pound of structural steel, or Z dollars for each tone of crushed aggregate.

"Complete in place" - that is the key requirement in measurement for payment. One of the "in place" complications is the measurement of concrete pipe culverts. These lengths, particularly in heavy sidehill construction, range up to more than 200 feet and sizes may be as small as 18 inches in diameter, but usually in a variety of other sizes, 24, 30, 36, and 48 in single or double lines. It is not enough to count the number of sections laid and use the sum for the installation measurement. The individual sections are joined and there is, in effect, an overlap of length at each joint. Moreover, a section might have been added or one removed to improve the fit to grading or to a headwall. Consequently, the engineer's duty is to measure the actual length of the completed installation.

Obviously, a long measuring tape has to be employed, usually two or three tape lengths connected end to end. Threading the tape through the pipe presents a problem unless there is an 80-pound man available to crawl through the pipe.

When this measurement problem arose on a Blue Ridge Parkway project in North Carolina, the project engineer, Frank Wise, had the measurements performed by typing one end of the tape to the collar of a dog. The dog was then dispatched through the pipe, the tape was stretched tight, and the true measurement was recorded.

The culvert installations are about 300 feet apart. On a project length of 8 or 10 miles, pipe measuring is no piece of cake. The down and up trips on the steep embankment slopes take mountain climber conditioning. But it is part of the job, a task to be performed by persons on the payroll. Mr. Wise was fully aware of this. Nonetheless, he engineered the "pipe-dog" operation, enmeshing his men even to the extent that one of them was the "pipe dog" owner.

Invariably one irregularity leads to another and another. The "pipe-dog" caper was no exception. The dog noted that the measurement party rode by pickup from stop-to-stop as the culvert measurements were made. In short order the dog jumped aboard and rode from pipe site to pipe site with, at least, tacit approval. Mr. Wise knew full well that only official payroll employees are allowed use of Government vehicles - no wives, no children, no friends, certainly no dogs.

These irregularities have been documented and confessed. Certain other aspects are more or less of rumor character. It has been said that incentives or rewards entered into the assignment. It has been mentioned that female poodles of the blue ribbon quality were nocturnal companions of the pipe dog. There was also talk that he was allowed to roam and make calls at some of the finest virgin timber tree specimens in the Blowing Rock area.

Unbelievable as it may seem, the pipe dog practice went on and on. It was never investigated; no one was ever charged; even the SPCA at no time lifted a finger to protect the rights of the pipe dog, granting, of course, that a little blackmail on his part marks him as not without blame in the whole matter.

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Updated: 06/27/2017
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000