Al Drake of Kennewick had everything he needed for a marriage proposal -- romance, a ring, and a woman poised to say yes. What he didn't have was enough space to get down on one knee.
"That's the only downside to proposing in a small plane," he said.
But he made up for it by making sure his proposal was visible from the sky.
With his girlfriend Julie Fox's 20th birthday approaching Saturday, Drake spoke to his future father-in-law, Ross Fox of Othello.
Ross and his wife, Linda, gave him permission to ask the all important question and to use the dirt of the family farm to do it.
"Her father was as excited as me," said Drake, 22.
After Ross finished harvesting his beans, he hooked a disc to the tractor, headed for the empty field and began the project.
On Sept. 27, Drake drove to Othello and the two co-conspirators completed the message, "Will you marry me," and added a heart with an arrow through it and the couple's initials, "AJ."
Ross controlled the disc, making sure it didn't get clogged and spoil Drake's pen, uh, tractormanship.
"He told me to steer," Drake said. "It was definitely not an easy task, and we only had one shot at it. It was pretty good teamwork."
Drake has known Julie Fox of Pasco since he was about 10 years old.
"Her mom and mine are good friends, so I knew the family, but we didn't really hang out until we were teenagers," he said. The two have been dating for about 10 months and had discussed marriage.
"But it was just, 'What if?' Nothing really concrete," Drake said.
The idea was in the back of his mind when a chance remark by a friend helped him decide to pop the question. His friend was taking the test to get his pilot's license.
"A lightbulb went off in my head and I said, 'Hey, I could propose in the air.' It was his idea to write in the field, and I decided to go with it," Drake said.
Drake's parents, Al and Angie Drake of Kennewick, drove up to the Fox family farm for Julie's birthday celebration Saturday. So did her soon-to-be fianc.
"He told me we were taking a little birthday trip. Everyone else knew what was happening, but I didn't have a clue," said Julie. "I kept trying to guess on the ride down to Pasco."
"When we pulled in to Bergstrom, I said, 'Oh, an airplane ride.' I was very excited about that. I had no idea what was coming," she said.
"I told her the plane ride was her birthday present. That we were going for an aerial tour of her family farm," Drake said.
As they flew over the farm, Drake told her to look out the window.
"He pointed and said, 'What's that say out there?' Then I saw him pull the ring out of his pocket. I was reading the field, and he was asking me to marry him. I don't know if I answered him or the field," she joked.
"I think I said yes, yes, yes to everyone," she said.
"She immediately started tearing up," Drake said.
The couple likely will tie the knot at the Fox family farm in June.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org