When Dennis Taylor sees Fruit Girl coming, suddenly it's not so bad working a construction job in stifling 100-plus-degree heat.
"She has the best oranges in town," Taylor said Friday between citrusy bites in Grapevine, where he was pouring concrete for the new Texas 114 main lanes on the $1 billion DFW Connector project.
Then the Waxahachie resident added: "Because she's taking care of us. She goes and picks them out personally for us, I think."
Fruit Girl, as she has become known, is Heather Flaigg of Keller.
Flaigg's official job is human resources manager and safety manager for Signature Contract Services, a Grand Prairie construction firm.
But Flaigg embraces her unofficial title of Fruit Girl. It's what many of the roughly 300 workers on the highway project call her.
Each day, her task is to deliver fruit to the laborers in the massive highway work zone to ensure that they stay hydrated and nourished on the job.
"I like the oranges, apples, bananas and plums and peaches, things that are juicy and easily accessible to them," she explained. "That way, they can eat it on the go."
'Some of them dance'
Her day usually begins at 7:30 a.m.
She picks up about 60 pounds of fresh fruit from a vendor and ices it down in three huge chests in the back of her Ford Expedition. Then, wearing a yellow safety vest and hard hat, she patrols the eight-mile Texas 114/121 corridor in Grapevine, pulling off the road wherever workers are clustered.
Often, the workers see her coming and swarm to the back of her truck.
"Some of them dance. Some of them jump," she said. "They get really excited when they see it coming."
Flaigg often splits her day into separate shifts. On Thursday night, she worked until 11:30 p.m. -- providing sweet edibles to workers on the graveyard shift -- and was back on the job shortly after sunrise Friday.
"I missed her yesterday. I was praying she'd come back today," said Courtney Williams of Cedar Hill, who Friday morning was operating a Ditch Witch on William D. Tate Avenue in Grapevine. "Plums -- they've got the juice to keep me hydrated."
Nicky Rubio, who was paving a frontage road near Texas 114/121 and Main Street, gladly accepted an orange and a banana. "We just wait for her every day," he said.
The DFW Connector developer, NorthGate Constructors, subcontracted with Flaigg's firm about a year ago. The idea was to boost worker morale during the relentless heat wave that has generated 38 straight days of triple-digit heat.
"We figured, instead of trying to force the guys to drink water all the time, giving them some fruit would boost morale and help keep their energy and hydrate the guys out in the field," said Derrick Fox, Northgate's subcontract monitor.
Flaigg is on a first-name basis with some of the workers, many of whom take about 30 seconds to a minute out of their shifts to engage her in small talk.
So, what is Fruit Girl's favorite fruit?
"Plums," she quickly answered. "They're juicy and sweet."
Then, she invited a visitor to the back of her truck.
"There's some more back there, if you want one."
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796