A new country
Issue #86 • March/April, 2004
Leave it to an immigrant to take advantage of all the great opportunities America has. David Kovarik, 27, who immigrated to America from the Czech Republic three years ago and settled in my area of Oregon, has been working hard as a jack of all trades since he arrived.
David is a diesel mechanic from the training he received in his home country, but he hasn’t found that type of work in this rural area. He is also a talented landscaper, but in this rainy climate landscaping is a seasonal business. So he has made himself available for any job that comes along.
I met him about a year ago, when I needed someone to make firewood out of four big trees I had felled to make way for an addition to my house, and to help me dig up a particularly gnarly piece of yard to expand our garden. David had formed a company called Kovarik Maintenance, and he and his new American wife, Jesse, hired themselves out as a team.
They turned out to be a great find for me. As David turned the trees into five cord of fir, Jesse dug out the yard. When they were done I set them to work cleaning out the underbrush in my couple of acres of woods, then thinning and limbing the trees as fire protection (Oregon had just suffered its worst fire in decades the year before). Then I had some clogged culverts that needed digging out, some big rocks that needed moving, lumber that needed stacking, and sundry other jobs I was putting off because I simply was too busy with this magazine.
Finally I asked David to help me eradicate what was becoming my number one house problem—the persistent smell of mice in certain rooms of the house. Like all country dwellers, I battle mice on a regular basis with traps and poison. I had David first staple hardware cloth to the underside of the house to keep them from crawling up into any holes that might give them access to the floors and walls. But the smell had persisted for months, so finally I decided it had to be coming from the attic, in the old crumbling insulation. So I hired David and Jesse to clean out all the old insulation and see what they found.
What they found was startling. Around and under the old insulation were pounds—about 10 pounds in all—of rodent feces and a few dehydrated dead mice. He used an industrial vacuum to get it all out. It took about two days of hot, suffocating work. I then hired an insulation company to blow fresh insulation back into the attic.
About a week later the mouse smell that had been tormenting me for months disappeared. It occurred to me that any house that had an attic more than 10 or so years old (mine is about 20) is probably loaded with these rodent feces. And a quick look on WebMD.com listed all 42 of the diseases these feces could expose a person to.
Light bulbs went off in our heads almost simultaneously. This was a business—the rodent feces abatement business—just waiting to be born. My wife, Lenie, and I helped David and Jesse do up a snappy flyer with some quotes from WebMD on it. We even took a photo of David holding the two bags of rodent feces he got out of my attic and put that onto the flyer. Then David went down to the local newspaper and paid them to stuff the flyer in with their next issue. I told him he could use me as a reference.
He waited three weeks for his first customer, but it was a big house with an owner as irritated at the smell of rodent feces as I was. He not only cleaned out the old insulation and rodent feces, but he put in the new insulation as well. It paid him a whopping $2,000 for several days work in January, a rainy month here during which he would normally have very little handyman or landscaping work. The delighted customer said use him as a reference too.
And so a business that could be practiced all year long was born. David and Jesse have bought HAZ-MAT suits and special respirators to safeguard their own health while they perform rodent feces abatement on other houses. He plans to get his contractor’s license and maybe hire a few people to work with him. There are probably tons of rat and mice feces in this county alone.
If you live in the country and need a job, you might want to consider this new business.