By Conrad Dudderar
He’s known to his many satisfied customers as “Sooty Scott” or simply “Scott.”
“That’s an easy way to remember me,” said Yukon’s Wendell Scott, owner of Action Chimney & Air Duct Cleaning & Bee Removal.
“As long as I’m healthy and can go up the ladder, I’ll keep going until I can’t anymore. I’ve been blessed to be doing what I’m doing at 74 years old. Most people my age ain’t doing this stuff.”
For much of the past 50 years, Scott has specialized in cleaning chimneys (of “soot”, thus the nickname), air ducts and dryer vents, and removing bees from homes and businesses.
“I like meeting and interacting with people who have a need for my service,” said Scott, who moved to Yukon in 1990.
“I have to credit it to getting my education. It’s made me more sociable. A lot of it is interacting with people and earning their trust.”
Scott likes sharing advice with customers – whether they have a problem with their chimney, dryer vent or bees.
His most interesting career experience has been removing racoons from customers’ chimneys.
“Racoons can go up and down that chimney,” Scott related. “They love hearing you talk, and they love music. They’re social animals, and they’re very intelligent.”
Interestingly, Scott said chimneys don’t necessarily have to be cleaned every year – unless they’re dirty. He does recommend homeowners call him to have their chimneys inspected annually to prevent fires and other issues.
The busy “chimney season” usually starts up in late September. Preventive maintenance is key.
Scott started chimney and air duct cleaning “on the side” in his late ‘20s after becoming as a classroom teacher in 1973.
With a wife and children to support, he augmented his teacher’s salary by cleaning people’s chimneys part-time. He became certified as a chimney sweep.
Scott worked about 20 years at schools in Ardmore, Madill, Sulphur, Stillwater, Oklahoma City, and his hometown of Idabel.
After obtaining a counseling degree, Scott even implemented the first elementary school counseling program in Oklahoma.
“I was the pioneer of it,” he said. “I got the first grant. I firmly believed that elementary kids needed a counselor.
“Back then, in the ‘70s, we didn’t have elementary counselors.”
He moved to Oklahoma City in the late-‘80s to be close to his mother and brothers, accepting a teaching job at a school east of Yukon.
Then Scott decided to take an early retirement from teaching in ‘90 to focus on his chimney sweep business.
“I could make more money doing this kind of work,” Scott explained. “When I started out teaching, I made $6,000 a year.
“Here I was going to do chimneys in chimney season. I might work two days a week and make more than I made in a month teaching.”
Although he liked teaching, Scott wanted to be his own boss.
“And I don’t like taking orders from someone when I don’t necessarily agree with it,” he said.
Scott has seen a reduced need for his air duct cleaning service because newer homes have filtered vents in ceilings instead of floors.
“It’s decreased by 80%,” he noted.
What has increased is dryer vent cleaning because of how these vents are installed in newly built homes to accommodate specific floor plans.
Besides cleaning chimneys, air ducts and dryer vents, Scott is licensed to remove bees and other pests from homes and businesses.
Bees inside a house are classified as a pest because the occupant may be allergic, and bees will sting them if they are in their flight pattern.
“I was interested in bees ever since I was 10 years old,” Scott said. “I finally got some hives when I was teaching school. And I was a beekeeper. It was a hobby, like most people start out.
“Around 1975-76, I really got interested in the bee deal. I’ve been in it ever since, and I’ve had my hives ever since selling honey. You don’t make much money selling honey, so I got more serious about it.”
Most beekeepers are not trained to remove bees.
Scott became certified in professional pest control through the state Department of Agriculture.
“I don’t recommend hiring a beekeeper (hobbyist) to do a bee removal unless they have bee insurance and are certified by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture for your protection,” Scott explained.
“If they fall of a ladder or have a reaction to bee stings while removing bee swarms or bees from a wall on your property, then you and your homeowner’s insurance policy may be responsible for their mishaps, bee stings and medical expenses.”
Scott rescues and saves all the bees he can and bee-proofs the nest area after removal.
“Unnecessary property tear-outs can be avoided if you have a license,” he added.
Scott shares sage advice to anyone who finds a bee swarm on their property.
First, never plug up the bee opening.
“That will only drive the bees further back into the cavity of your house, making the job much more expensive,” Scott said.
Second, poisoning the bees will weaken the colony and honey can run down the walls.
“Poisoned bees will move further back in the opening beyond access to remove them,” he added. “They can go inside your house if you poison or plug the hole.”
A weak colony cannot protect the honey, which becomes runny and messy, Scott noted.
Then pests like ants, moths and beetles will invade the honey and it will run through the sheetrock walls – creating a disaster.
Scott shared a story about an Oklahoma City resident who called him this spring to remove bees from the back of his house.
The man had tried using sheets of sticky fly paper, cans of roach/wasp spray and a bug zapper.
Scott told him he was wasting his time and only making things worse by driving the bees further back.
“I said, ‘Those bees are hatching out every day, probably 2,000 of them. You’re killing these bees that are flying and they’re taking that poison and putting it in that honeycomb. … You’re contaminating that area’.”
Scott is well known for selling jars of tasty local honey.
“I have the old-fashion honor system where they just come by,” he said. “The honey will be on the porch in a bucket. They know the price of it and put the money in the bucket.”
AT THE TOP
Scott decided to name his business “Action” for a practical reason – because he wanted to be at the top of the listings in the phone book.
“For the first five years, I wasn’t even advertising,” he recalled. “I was a teacher and didn’t have the money.
“I would teach six hours a day, then I’d hit the streets putting fliers out on everybody’s doors. And I had an old-timey Comtel machine that would call people.
“Then I started making more money and getting into the advertising when I moved to the Oklahoma City metro area.”
Yukon’s chimney cleaning and bee removal specialist was asked to share his keys to having a thriving small business.
“Number one, you have to have a passion for it and like doing it,” Scott said. “Another part of it is your wife; she has to be working with you and be compatible.”
Scott is indeed his own boss but relies on wife Tammie to make the business run smoothly.
“My wife helps me a lot because I don’t have to do all that phone calling,” he shared. “Over the years, she’s been at home answering the phones and booking my jobs. She’s been my secretary.”
Scott is well pleased to have had his home and business in Yukon for more than 30 years. He has customers across Canadian County, along with Edmond and parts of Oklahoma City.
He always tries to avoid rush-hour traffic, so is available on evenings and weekends.
“I work seven days a week,” Scott said. “There ain’t no telling when I might wake up and can’t go up that ladder. I’m 74. My doctor told me I need to work as long as I can.
“So, I’m going to work until I can’t.”
Instead of handing out a paper business card (“they’ll lose it”), Scott gives each customer a magnet with his name and phone number to place on their refrigerator.
For those who don’t have one of his magnets, call Action Chimney & Air Duct Cleaning at (405) 354-8651 or visit sootyscott.com