They met on a dating website whose cable TV commercial stars two talking cows.
They social networked and instant messaged and felt digitally connected before they ever actually laid eyes on one another.
This morning, they crawled out of bed hours before dawn and climbed into two high-tech garbage trucks. They picked up northeast Nebraska's junk and dreamed they will one day run a sustainable farm that runs on solar power.
Thor and Casey Meyer of Snyder, Neb., are living a thoroughly modern love story.
Technology didn't kill romance, at least not this one. Technology made it possible.
“It almost didn't happen,” says Thor, who threw the javelin at UNL and got a graduate degree and once almost moved to Los Angeles, before taking up residence on the plot of land where his family homesteaded in the late 1800s.
“I just kind of wrote him off as, whatever, fine, there are other fish in the sea,” says Casey, who played college softball in Las Vegas and grew up in the Denver suburbs and once romanticized about living like Laura Ingalls Wilder.
“And then somehow this email pops up, and it says, let's talk. ... ”
The story begins, as so many relationships do now, on the great and wondrous matchmaker known as the Internet.
Both Thor and Casey signed up for a dating website called FarmersOnly.com which, as the name and TV ads imply, is geared toward farmers and other residents of rural America. The website's tag line: “City folks just don't get it!”
Now, Thor was not exactly a farmer when he signed up — he had a film degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and was weighing whether to go to graduate school or move to Los Angeles, where the predominant crop is smog.
And Casey, well, she lived in a sprawling metro area crammed with 2.7 million people and known for its traffic jams.
Denver isn't exactly Deshler, cowgirl.
FarmersOnly, the brainchild of a Cleveland public relations executive named Jerry Miller, now boasts about 300,000 members, including a fair number of city slickers who yearn for country life.
“You have your people on the site who are into riding horses, people who are into organic farming, people who embrace the ag lifestyle even if they live in the city,” Miller says.
That fit both Thor, who grew up on a farm, and Casey, who did landscaping work after college and loved visiting her grandparents' small town. Plus the price was right: $17.95 per month on the site, every third month free and no other fees, which they both found cheaper and more hassle-free than bigger sites such as Match.com.
But neither had much luck trolling FarmersOnly. Thor struggled through a couple of boring dates. Casey made friends but found no romance.
In December 2009, she saw a profile picture of “a cute guy” and sent him a message. No response. She sent another the day of the Super Bowl in 2010. No response. Months passed.
Thor, who had stopped paying for his account, decided to check it just once more. He saw the messages from Casey that he'd never received. He hemmed and hawed and wrote her back.
One email led to many Internet chats, and after a couple of months, they found themselves making plans to meet between Denver and Lincoln on July 3, 2010.
People who claim that old-school romance is dead, that Casey and Thor's generation (and mine) killed it somewhere between text messaging and Twitter, should pay attention to what happened next.
They both drove nearly four hours to Lake McConaughy. They sat on a picnic blanket. They ate red-white-and-blue popcorn that Thor packed special. They “ooohed” and “aaahed” at the fireworks. They talked until midnight, even though both had to drive the four hours home.
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And at some point, after a romantic rain started pitter-pattering on the car roof, Thor decided to ask.
May I kiss you good night?
“If you wanna get metaphorical, there were fireworks,” Thor says about that first date.
Casey laughs and groans.
Three months later, when Casey was back in Denver, she got a letter — actual snail mail — from Thor. It was a love poem, in iambic pentameter. That, Casey says, was the moment she knew.
“I still have it pinned on my wall,” she says.
Says Thor, a bit proudly: “It wasn't some damn limerick.”
Last February, after Casey moved to Lincoln and they moved together back to a Meyer family farmhouse near Snyder, Thor popped another key question.
They got married in a small, family only ceremony last summer.
Happily ever after has included some trade-offs. Both husband and wife clock in at 5 a.m. at Waste Connections, a Fremont-based trash company. Casey drives a route that takes her as far north as Leigh and Clarkson. Thor mostly drives in Fremont.
It's not a dream job, but they are saving up money so Casey can become a personal trainer and so Thor can realize his dream of running his own farm.
He plans to cut some hay for his dad, a farmer in the area, this year. She plans to grow a garden. Together, they will fix up the century-old farmhouse.
And on clear spring nights, the film student and the Denver girl who met online will climb onto the farmhouse roof in the middle of nowhere. They will lie on their backs. They will not stare at a computer. They will stare up, at the stars.
Even city folk can understand that.
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