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John Anderson Is Dev-Oat-Ed to Keeping His Gal on the Farm

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For an older generation it was writing love letters in the sand. But when 27-year-old farmer and amateur pilot John Anderson wanted to let girlfriend Shirley Bauer know his days of sowing his wild oats were over, he did what came naturally—to him. On the morning of September 22, he used a field cultivator to write the words “Marry me Shirley” in 250-foot-high, 40-foot-wide letters in his family’s oat field outside Brooten, Minn. That afternoon, Shirley’s 29th birthday, he flew her over the half-mile-by-quarter-mile message in his single-engine plane.

The grass roots proposal almost didn’t get off the ground. First, John recalls, his digging equipment got stuck on a tree (“I guess I was nervous”). Then Shirley, a nurse, didn’t want to go up (“It was rainy and I was acting kind of silly,” he says). When they were finally airborne, John had to make two passes—with the plane—before Shirley got the message.

Although John says he had no doubts that Shirley would accept, he had a backup plan ready just in case: “I just would have stayed up there until she said yes.”