The 42-hour haul

Written by Peyson Shields

“I should have listened to dad.”

When AJ Mies bundled up in the wee hours of the morning on April 30, he didn’t leave with the intentions of muttering those words.

Springtime weather in the Midwest is the definition of unpredictable. From 75-degree days to sleet, “spring” is really just signified by crossing days off the calendar. And on that last week of April, when most of the country was gearing up for warmer weather, Southwest Kansas was getting hit with a record-breaking snow storm.

In this area, the average farm ships several tanker loads of milk per day, and Mies & Sons Trucking is the primary milk hauler responsible for getting that milk from point A to point B. And owner Jerry Mies, who was raised on his folks’ dairy farm in Wichita, Kan., doesn’t take that responsibility lightly.

“We spent the previous day preparing the best we could,” says Jerry, who started Mies & Sons out of Colwich, Kan., with one truck and one trailer in 1991. “We dropped extra trailers at several dairies to help avoid milk getting dumped, just in case we couldn’t get there.”

So when AJ got ready to head out on that last morning of the month, he didn’t think twice about the weather; however, Jerry did.

“This was only the second time we have ever shut down the trucks because of weather,” says Jerry, who recommended AJ stay home and not venture out to the dairies.

AJ though, was on autopilot. After making his way toward his first stop, he turned off of highway 27 toward the dairy. Before he knew it, there he was — stuck in his truck at 3:30 a.m. on a county road south of Syracuse, Kan.

With the cold, dark sky looming over the isolated road, and snowflakes the size of silver dollars racing to the ground, AJ decided to sleep it off and assess the situation once daylight broke.

A few hours later he awoke to the sun gleaming off the freshly-fallen snow. Hopping out of the truck, the reality of the treacherous conditions sunk in. Snow drifts greater than six feet swept across the flat Kansas plains and surrounded his truck.

Digging out was out of the question due to the 60-mile-per-hour winds, and while AJ knew of a nearby dairy down the road, he had fuel and cell phone reception, so decided to stay put. And with no estimate as to how long he’d be there, he did what anyone in logistics would do — take inventory:

  • Toilet paper
  • Cooler full of ice
  • Half a can of Monster Energy Drink
  • A can of Red Bull

Check, check, check and check. An equation that left him with 150 calories, limited hydration and tissue to blow a possible runny nose — not the best sum for being stranded in a snow storm.

While the uncertainty of rescue was up in the air, AJ didn’t panic. Instead, he touched based with family to let them know his location, and spent a lot of time FaceTiming his wife and daughter.

While taking shelter in his truck, he noticed several quail outside. Between boredom and hunger pains, he again got out of the truck — but this time, he was on a mission.

“I’ve always been an avid hunter,” says AJ, who moved to Garden City, Kan., last year to provide hauling services for DFA’s newest plant and take advantage of the area’s vast pheasant and deer hunting scene. “I didn’t have a knife or a gun, so I decided to use what was all around me — wet, icy snow.”

A dozen or so snowballs later and he had dinner — an equation AJ was more comfortable with.