As a boy, it never occurred to me that I’d have a career in television or wind up hosting a show like Dirty Jobs. My plan was to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather, a tradesman named Carl Knobel. A man who worked with his hands, not his voice. A man who went out of his way to avoid the spotlight. A man I called Pop.
Pop lived next door to the little farmhouse I grew up in. He only made it to the seventh grade, but he possessed a mechanical mind and a work ethic second-to-none. An electrician by trade, he went on to become the kind of indispensable handyman who could fix or fabricate pretty much anything. To me, he was a magician. Most days, he woke up clean, came home dirty, and along the way, solved problems beyond the skill of mere mortals. I never once saw him read the instructions to anything. He just knew how stuff worked, and he helped anybody who needed it.
As his would-be apprentice, I mimicked Pop’s every move, tagging along on countless construction jobs, trying to absorb all the mechanical knowledge he possessed. I took the shop classes offered in high-school and applied myself as best I could. But nothing ever worked out the way I planned. The bookshelf I made was lopsided, the sconce was misshapen, and the toolbox I welded together in metal-shop didn’t close tightly. Slowly, I began to see that the “handy gene” was recessive, and my shortcomings gave me pause. If I couldn’t do what Pop did, how would I ever make a living? Then, Pop gave me the best advice I’ve ever received.
“God gave me a toolbox, Mike. He gave you one, too. But he didn’t give us the same one. Have a look inside your own toolbox.”
With Pop’s urging, I began to rummage around in this toolbox I didn’t know I had. Then, I started exploring a career I didn’t know I wanted. Eventually, the tools in that box would give me an opportunity to try my hand at more than 300 dirty jobs—salt miner, fish gutter, septic tank technician, hot tar roofer, ostrich farmer, underwater lumberjack, worm poop rancher—you name it, I tried it. I can’t tell you that I did those jobs well, but my personal competence was never the point of Dirty Jobs. The point was to highlight the expertise of the workers I profiled. People like Pop. The same people that Knobel Tennessee Whiskey is dedicated to today.