Here’s what it’s really like to do 7 of Charlotte’s messiest, muckiest jobs, from pig farming to picking up dog poop

Courtesy of Discovery Place
Stephanie Wicks
Courtesy of Discovery Place Stephanie Wicks

Discovery Place staff may get an unexpected “present” from the snakes, iguanas and other animals they handle during live shows at the John Mackay Field Station in the science museum.

“[You] never know when they’re gonna go,” said Stephanie Wicks, manager of living collections and exhibits at Discovery Place Science. She’s pictured above with iguana poop running down her leg. “Iguanas could go in the middle of you holding them. If you handle a snake right after they eat, they can possibly regurgitate their food.”

Wicks works in the rainforest and aquatic departments. Cuddle fish, snakes, monitor lizards and ‘Eve’ the octopus are some of the creatures she cares for on a daily basis. She’s the one who dives into the coral reef system to clean it. The waterfall in the rainforest gets scrubbed once a year. By the end of the day, Wick’s covered in mud and algae.

“I think the dirtiest aspects of the job are not known,” Wicks said. “They [guests] don’t know the nitty gritty. Every day we go into the cages of all the program animals and clean out what’s been left.”

Most likely, you interact or rely on someone who has a job with a dirty, messy or disgusting component. Mike Rowe, former host of Discovery Channel’s eight-season TV series, “Dirty Jobs” shed light on the difficult aspects of these careers. He raised awareness and encouraged communities to show respect for the men and women who work in these industries.

Here are 7 jobs that fellow Charlotteans do to keep our community running smooth:

(1) Animal Farmer

Jessica Evans, owner, Evans Family Farm

Messiest job: “Every part of livestock farming has its fair share of dirt. Animals poop, a lot. We castrate pigs, trim hooves and see lots of live births. But the dirtiest job on the farm is processing poultry.  We process all of our meat chickens here on the farm, and there’s lots of blood, feathers and guts.”

Surprise factor: “There are some tasks that are dirty, but raising animals outdoors, in their natural environments, they are actually pretty clean. Even pigs, when given lots of outdoor space, leave all their manure in one small area.”

Entry-level pay: $10 per hour

(2) Poop Scooper

Andrew and Suzanne Overgaard, Owners, ScooperDude Pet Waste Removal, LLC

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Messiest job: “We service pet stations and trash cans at HOA’s (Homeowner’s Associations) and commercial sites.  We had to empty a trash can that was overflowing after a Labor Day weekend and some rain. The bag broke, trash was floating in water because the trashcan was retaining the water. It was a noxious mix of food, drink, cigarettes and chicken bones.”

Surprise factor: “It’s really not as smelly or dirty as one might assume.  We are as hygienic as we can be. Granted, when it’s 100 degrees outside we’re sweaty and dirty but it’s not likely from poop.”

Entry-level pay: $23,000 annually

(3) Garbage Man

Jimmie Gaddy, senior sanitation equipment operator, City of Charlotte Solid Waste Services

Messiest job: “The landfill has to be the dirtiest part of the job, especially when it rains. The landfill gets extremely muddy. You and/or your truck can get stuck in all the mud and garbage.”

Surprise factor: “We do a lot of things we aren’t supposed to do to help the citizens out. Some of these things include: Go back out when we have already visited and taking garbage that isn’t always bagged.”

Entry-level annual salary: $20.04 per hour, not including overtime and holiday pay

(4) Certified Beekeeper

Marvin Bouknight, director, Discovery Place Nature

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Messiest job: “After a season of beekeeping, we have to clean up all of the equipment and prepare for the next spring. Bees produce honey, but they also make wax and another sticking substance called propolis, which is harvested tree sap and other sticky substances they use to seal openings in their beehives. In order to clean it, you have to use a lot of elbow grease as you heat and scrape, which results in a smattering of sticky stuff all over you.”

Surprise factor: “I think people don’t realize that there is more to keeping bees than just getting honey.”

Entry-level pay: $14-$16 per hour

(5) Home Inspector

Norman Richards, owner, NS Richards Property Inspections

Messiest job: “Encounters with live and dead animals (family pets missing for years), snakes, black widows, brown recluse spiders, mud and ruptured waste lines in crawl spaces.”

Entry-level pay: $50,000 annually

(6) Bike Mechanic

Brian Roney, service technician, Bicycle Sport

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Messiest job: “Getting dirty goes along with the job, but standing in the middle of a cow pasture in two inches of water down in Costa Rica was the dirtiest. I was a mechanic for hire for a team of four [bike] riders who were racing down there. You can imagine what’s in that water.”

Surprise factor: “How big of a hammer I use.”

Entry-level pay: $8-$9 an hour

(7) Dead Animal Collector

Jarvis Chisolm, sanitation equipment operator, City of Charlotte Solid Waste Services

Messiest job: “I once had to collect a dead horse that was gutted, skinned and then cut into pieces.”

Surprise factor: “I don’t go on the actual property. I am responsible for collecting the animal at the curb. A lot of residents think that I will go into their backyard to collect the animal, but I actually can’t do that. Also surprisingly my job doesn’t smell as bad as one would think it does. It mostly only smells in the summer and the smell doesn’t compare to some of the things that are smelled on a garbage route.”

Entry-level pay: $20.04 per hour