When Brian Culliss made a marriage proposal, he didn't use the on-bended-knee approach.
No one could accuse Brian Culliss of not cultivating his romantic relationship with Tara Gunn.
On May 5, about three years after the two Kansas University graduates met, Culliss climbed aboard a Cessna 172 airplane with Gunn and set off on a course from the Olathe airport to Lawrence.
They buzzed the KU campus, drifted here and there around Lawrence and then headed toward Culliss' home at 3131 Lakeview Rd.
That's when the letters began to appear.
"TARA ... WILL ... YOU ... MARRY ... ME?" read the 15-foot-tall block type, which Culliss had mowed into the grass on his one-acre lot. Following the proposal, in cursive script, read, "Brian."
"She was in shock," said Culliss, who scheduled the flight on Gunn's birthday to mask his true intentions. "And I'm handing the flowers and the ring back to her."
Gunn said she was delighted.
"I knew something was up," she said, "because he normally wouldn't have gone through so much trouble just for my birthday.
"But I wasn't expecting words in the lawn."
Culliss said he'd dreamed up the idea about two weeks before popping the silent question.
"The clues were, 'We need to watch the weather, we're driving east and be ready at a certain time'," he said, adding that he told only a few family members and friends about the plan. "Oh, and I told her, 'Don't come by the house Friday'."
Early on Gunn's birthday, Culliss traced the letters with a chalk marker and started mowing. Two hours later, his crop-art proposal was ready.
He grabbed a bag containing the ring and flowers, plus a few paper Power Rangers cups and a bottle of non-alcohol champagne, and picked up his bride-to-be.
"It was quite a surprise," Gunn said.
It was also effective. The Lawrence couple are planning a spring 1996 wedding -- one that Gunn said would be much more conventional than the proposal.
"I'm just looking for a church," she said. "We're not going to be parachuting or anything."