Through the window stands a family. Dressed in their holiday best, warmth isn’t an issue with the fireplace calmly burning next to the Christmas tree. This family, like many others, is comfortable eating their smorgasbord of roasted turkey and honey baked ham to celebrate the Christmas night.
But outside is a moonlit winter-wonderland; with snow as much as 16 inches in some areas, even the most confident drivers have limited their holiday travels. Only the snowplows are on the road; for Senior Tyler Mckelvey, there is no other way he would rather spend his Christmas night.
Mckelvey is one of the many men on this night not with their families but instead making money plowing the streets, parking lots and drive-ways; and he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I have always loved snow to death,” Mckelvey said. “Winter has always been my favorite time of the year, and I think that when you grow up, you think of how you can make money. Snowplowing is a great opportunity.”
During the month of December the Kansas City area experienced 16 inches of snow, some of the most in history. While the snow was falling heavily, Mckelvey’s father received a call about the sale of a snowplow; although they had no experience in plowing, the unique opportunity to make money outweighed the risk. They decided to buy it.
The first storm after attaching the nine foot Heneger plow to their truck, Tyler Mckelvey got his chance and took the plow out for the first time. Since he had to share the truck with each of his two older brothers and his father, Tyler had to wait for his turn. But when he took the rig out for the first time he fell in love with plowing snow.
“I definitely thought I would love it,” Mckelvey said. “The guy I worked for this summer had a big plowing service, and he had like monster trucks with big plows on them. I just thought it was something I would like to try out.”
Plowing snow is a business often reserved for the bigger companies of True North or Rose Hill who have the capability to do the Target and Best Buy parking lots in the world but with not much money being in individual drive-ways and small parking lots, the larger companies stay away. This is where Mckelvey and his Chevy 3500 come into play.
On the pecking order first was the parking lot where his father worked. Allowing an easy job to learn on and get used to the plow. Later that night Tyler went out on his own to begin his plowing career. Without a large list of clients Tyler gets almost all of his business from word of mouth.
During a plow,Tyler may be doing a drive-way and in-between pushing a pile of snow, someone may have ask if he could do their driveway. Before the day is over Tyler may have plowed half of the street. This is the core of his business.
Depending on the density, and quantity of the snow, Mckelvey could be up for as much as 36 hours behind the plow with nothing but a Quick Trip taquito or a can of Red Bull to keep him going, but according to Mckelvey this isn’t a problem.
“I feel like I get in the zone when I am plowing,” Mckelvey said. “You are plowing away just listening to music, and then you look down at the clock and hours have gone bye, and you just say ‘what happened’ or ‘where did the time go'”
As a senior in high school McKelvey may not have the experience of the multi-year plowing veterans, but he has the drive to make up for it.
“I view it as a race,” Mckelvey said. “There are a lot of other snow plowers out there, and I feel that the first one to the job gets it so it can get pretty competitive.” Mckelvey’s joy from the plow and certainly word of the profits he has made have gotten to his friends. On any given snowstorm he will clean 10 of his friends drive-ways, but what makes the biggest difference is the partnership of his friend, Senior John Dollar.
When the plow was finally attached to the truck, Mckelvey sent a picture to Dollar. Intrigued by the picture, Dollar became Tyler’s shoveler. When plowing small parking lots and driveways like Mckelvey does almost always includes shoveling walkways and or sidewalks. This is not what Mckelvey or any other snowplow operator enjoys to do. He would much rather be in the cab of his truck listening to country music and operating the plow something that all snowplow drivers treat as a game. Dollar’s job is to work through the arctic temperatures shoveling all that needs to be shoveled, a job that can be very draining.
“I dont mind shoveling at all,” Dollar said “especially if you have one of your friends doing it with you.”
Outside of plowing being an entertaining occupation for Mckelvey, he is a part of a small fraternity of snowplow drivers. When Mckelvey pulls up at a stoplight next to another plow or is eating with another driver at the same Wendy’s they share a common bond. Although they know nothing of each other they are the same.
Dollar’s and Mckelvey’s main goal main goal during the plow insn’t necessarily to make a living but to have fun and the two have done very well at that.
“We pass the hours really well,” Dollar said. “We listen to music, talk, drink. We have no problem at all having a good time.”