When the Jobs Get Weird, Oregonians Get the Jobs

by Christian Kaylor

June 19, 2017

Few states offer what Oregon does. How many places in America have both mountains and ocean beaches, rivers and deserts, a major city, and more than 50 ghost towns? In a state as geographically diverse as Oregon, it’s no surprise that we boast workers in almost every category – and some workers that defy any known category.

The Oregon Employment Department categorizes over 800 specific occupations. However, for really unusual jobs there is no defined category or available statistics. It's worthwhile to study the jobs that fall outside of what we consider normal. After all, everyone is different and for some folks that perfect job may mean looking outside the jobs that exist today – and creating something truly original.

Goat Yoga, Sleeping with the Sloths, and Other Animal Occupations

At the No Regrets Farm in Corvallis, Lainey Morse organizes yoga classes with her friend and yoga instructor, Heather Davis. Yoga is well known for helping people feel better both physically and mentally. Less well known, studies show that owning a pet lowers blood pressure and improves the mood of their owners. Combining the therapeutic value of yoga with the medical benefits of petting goats has been a big success. The goat yoga class at No Regrets Farm has thousands of people on the waiting list.

The sloth is a small, slow moving, tree dwelling mammal native to the rainforests of Central and South America. These adorable creatures are well known for their calm demeanor and soft fur. In the Oregon town of Rainier, the Sloth Center sustains the largest population of long-term, actively reproducing captive adult sloths in North America. The center is dedicated to providing a safe habitat for sloths.

The staff at the Sloth Center don’t just care for these rare and unusual creatures. They also provide opportunities for people to interact with the sloths. At the Sloth Center, the staff will teach you about sloths while letting you pet and feed the animals. Sloths sleep during the day. If you want to really spend some quality time with the sloths, the staff at the center will let you sleep in the sanctuary with the sloths. While it’s not a hotel, you’ll certainly never find another place to sleep where the employees instruct you about how to properly behave as sloths hang from artificial branches over your head.

Musical Jobs with a Twist

Oregon has long been known for being the home of provocative musical acts. In the Spring of 1963, the Kingsmen recorded “Louie Louie” in a single take in downtown Portland. A problem with a studio microphone made the lead vocals hard to understand. Rumors circulated that the lyrics were secretly obscene, and the song was banned in communities around the United States. The band rode the controversy all the way to the top of the charts and today the song is considered a rock and roll classic.

Modern Oregon musicians have also often approached their craft in a unique way. The Decemberists are well known for creatively incorporating audience participation into their live shows. Carrie Brownstein is the founder of the iconic punk trio Sleater-Kinney, but the Portlander has gone beyond music to develop and star in the television series Portlandia. Portland group Pink Martini refuses to be categorized into any musical genre and has produced hit songs that cross multiple genres: classical, Latin, jazz and pop.

Perhaps the most unique Oregon musician is the Unipiper. Also known as Brian Kidd, the Unipiper plays the bagpipes, while wearing an interesting costume and riding a unicycle. More recently, Kidd has begun playing a bagpipe customized to produce dramatic bursts of propane flames. By combining bagpipe playing with a unicycle, along with other dramatic flourishes, the Unipiper has become a national celebrity. If you have a special event coming up, you can hire the Unipiper to perform for a fee.

Oregon’s History of Taking a Job in a Different Direction

Oregon has a long tradition of inspiring folks to do things differently. After visiting the Oregon Dunes near Florence, Frank Herbert was inspired to write a science fiction novel involving an interstellar empire and a desert planet. More than 20 publishers rejected the strange story of Dune before it was finally published. Unusual as it was, after selling over 12 million copies, it may be the best-selling science fiction novel of all time.
Many controversial artists have been inspired to take an unorthodox approach by time spend in Oregon. Vladimir Nabokov wrote his most famous novel in Ashland while literally chasing butterflies. Today considered one of the greatest novels ever written, Lolita was immediately banned by the British and French governments when it was first published in 1955. Oregon was the home for culinary icon James Beard and counter-culture legend Ken Kesey, both figures who reinvented what it means to be a chef or an author. 

Oregon’s history of famous outsiders goes well beyond artists. As a teenager in Portland, Linus Pauling worked as a chemist, analyzing buttermilk for local dairies. This was before famously going on to become the father of molecular biology and winning two Nobel Prizes. Most folks would be happy with just one Nobel prize, but along with being a genius at molecular chemistry, Pauling was also a passionate advocate for world peace. Linus Pauling was not the first person to have two jobs, but he was the first person to win a Nobel prize for each of them.

Oregonians Work Different

Oregon has a national reputation for putting a unique twist on lots of different things. That’s also true for some of the jobs we do. Not every Oregonian has a unique job, and certainly not every Oregonian who tries a different way of doing a job will be successful. But maybe in Oregon we create a safe place for people to risk experimenting with the unusual. So the next time you're working at your job, and it begins to feel a little routine, feel free to shake it up a little. Just make sure you get permission before bringing any goats into the office.

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