» For a couple who grew up on farms, what better way to get engaged than this: a proposal spelled out in a field?
That's how Jacob Saathoff popped the question to McKenzie McAuliffe. On Dec. 31, he drove her to a Johnson County hill in southeast Nebraska and asked her to look below.
She was amazed to see the words spelled out in cornstalk bales: “MARRY ME?”
They sat in his warm pickup truck because it was cold outside, so it wasn't convenient for him to drop to one knee. But he presented a ring and she happily said yes.
The proposal and the work that went into it was spectacular enough, but Jake wanted more of a keepsake. So he hired aerial photographer Doug Prange of Lincoln to fly over the field on Tuesday to preserve the image.
“I figured this was a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing,” Jake said, “and the cost was reasonable, $200. I just thought it was something she would cherish.”
Engineering the proposal wasn't easy — Jake estimated that each of the 133 round bales weighed 1,400 pounds and stood 6 feet tall. He enlisted high school senior Kale Heusman to help him move the bales into place with a hydraulic loader.
The field is owned by Jake's brother, Andy, who stood on the nearby hill and phoned to say whether the letters were straight.
Jake and Mac have dated for seven years but have known each other most of their lives. They graduated a year apart from Sterling High School, where both played multiple sports and Jake was on the 2009 Class D-2 state championship basketball team.
He studied agriculture at Southeast Community College in Beatrice, and she graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She now is in nursing school at Creighton University in Omaha.
A wedding is planned for May 2015, when the couple who got engaged with the help of bales in a field will promise in front of friends and family never to bail on each other.
» Omaha continued its run of top 10 national rankings this week with a No. 7 slot among “Best Cities for Job Seekers.”
The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, which tracks such ratings, said this one comes from NerdWallet.com. The ranking is based on unemployment rate, population growth, median income and housing costs.
Omaha's unemployment rate of 3.6 percent was the lowest among the top 10.
Austin, Texas, was rated first overall, followed by Washington, D.C.; Fort Worth, Texas; Denver; and Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina. Behind Omaha were Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Atlanta.
» Cornhusker football players of the 1960s and '70s would report to the equipment room daily and pick up their “Gibber Grays.”
That's what they called the gray shorts and T-shirts they wore for weightlifting or winter conditioning. They also wore them under their practice or game uniforms.
The term came from the name of the equipment manager who passed them out, all neatly folded and wrapped in a towel. Gilbert “Gib” Babcock was a beloved fixture who retired in 1977.
He died on New Year's Day at the Valley View Living Center in Ord, Neb., just after the current Huskers defeated Georgia. He was 100.
|Columnists Michael Kelly, Erin Grace and Matthew Hansen write about people, places and events around Omaha. Read more of their work here.|
Ex-Huskers George Mills and Rik Bonness, who played in the '70s, told me this week that everyone who played in their era has fond memories of Gibber.
“He was proud of Nebraska football and his athletes,” Rik said. “He took care of us on and off the field. If your chin strap broke during a game, nobody was more important in the moment than Gib.”
He ran a tight ship. If you left your sweaty grays on the locker room floor, your next trip to the pickup window would not be pleasant.
Years earlier, Gib and his family had suffered a tragedy shared by the nation. His son, Lt. Ronald Babcock, a 1960 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, died in the 1963 sinking of the USS Thresher.
On a training exercise in the Atlantic Ocean 200 miles off New England, the nuclear submarine failed on a deep dive and then imploded.
» Two Omaha couples recently sailed on a holiday cruise in the Caribbean and were pleased when a singer was introduced onstage as having come “all the way from Nebraska.”
The couples are Rich and Fran Juro and Nate and Hannah Schwalb. They invited the singer, Erin Jean Whitney, to join them for dinner.
Erin grew up in Aurora, Neb., graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan and earned a master's degree in theater from Florida State-Sarasota. She spent a year in Omaha and performed at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
Another coincidence is that Rich is volunteer chairman for development at the Playhouse, where the development director is Erin's friend, Lizzy Rasmussen Gilbert.
Said Rich: “Everyone is planning to get together the next time Erin returns to her home state.”