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In his cleaner days, Mike Rowe sang professionally with The Baltimore Opera. Photo: Discovery Channel

The National Truck Equipment Association assures us that this year's Work Truck Show keynote speaker is sure to convince attendees that they've got it good — no matter what job they do. That's because the speaker is Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs Executive Producer Mike Rowe, and he's done just about every filthy, smelly, or just plain gross job imaginable.

For those not acquainted with the TV series, Rowe serves as an apprentice to men and women who shoulder the often-unpleasant jobs — such as “roadkill removal specialist” and “sludge recycler” — that make life easier and safer for the rest of us. He pays tribute to these humble heroes by revealing how they earn a living. And perhaps because he sees a lot of it, he also has a penchant for saying “poo.”

In anticipation of his speech, which takes place March 3 during a 7:30 a.m. breakfast in Chicago, the editors of PUBLIC WORKS perused the show's Web site to see what kind of dirt we could dig up on Rowe. Here's what we found:

  • The back of an Ohio DOT roadkill recovery truck, the San Francisco Dump's trommel food-separation device, and the San Francisco Waste Treatment Center's lift pump chamber are among the smelliest places he's ever been.
  • For its sheer grossness, removing roadkill is one of the toughest jobs he's done.
  • In addition to being kicked and bitten by all sort of animals and scared by an alligator, he's wrenched his back hauling garbage, become dehydrated in a New Jersey sludge pit, and developed infections after waste material got into wounds.
  • Of the 200 jobs he's worked, he refuses to “catfish noodle” (a form of fishing by using your bare hands as bait) again.
  • Fans' favorite “Rowe-isms” include “I'm a dirty boy,” “Everything sounds more credible in a pipe,” and “A critical oversight that has led to yet another mouthful of poo.”
  • No job is so critically important, or so breathtakingly vile, that one can't enjoy him or herself. Time on the job, says Rowe, “is such a big part of our lives; it seems preposterous to have a lousy time at it … That's a big part of Dirty Jobs — good-natured people covered in muck, working their butts off, laughing.”

Dirty Jobs premiered in 2005, with Rowe apprenticing as a garbage collector, sewer inspector, and disaster cleanup crew member in the first two episodes. Since then, he's tried scrap-metal recycling, storm drain cleaning, concrete spreading and stamping, mosquito control, dump truck cleaning, and sinkhole garbage removal. And he's looking for more jobs to add to his resume.

At the end of most episodes, Rowe asks viewers to submit ideas for his next jobs. To do so, go to http://dsc.discovery.com, click on “TV Shows,” and then on “Dirty Jobs.”

We'd like to hear from readers who've appeared on Dirty Jobs. To share your story, e-mail vsicaras@hanleywood.com.