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The Proposal Story

Thomas Lee Dykes, Sr. & Nina Estelle Hardee

Prefaced by: How we learned this story.

Sometime in the Spring of 1960, we discovered
that Grandmother and Granddaddy had never been on
vacation. Since my parents traveled extensively, it
was suggested that Grandmother and Granddaddy go
with them the next time they took a trip. Granddaddy
flatly refused – on the spot – NO discussion. Ok…
No problem. We simply hatched an elaborate kidnapping
plot and took him anyway.

The days before the three-day “practice vacation”
were so much fun. We had to arrange for the chickens
to be fed, and had to get this guy packed and ready
without his knowledge. I have never giggled so much
in my LIFE. Looking back, he had to know - Jacque
and I were constantly running through the house and
giggling as if we had lost our minds completely…
and we had a HUGE suitcase stashed under the bed in
the sleeping porch – and we packed and repacked it
a million times… It’s a wonder we didn’t wear the
hinges out on the doors to the sleeping porch …and
then we had to sneak everything outside and stash it
all in the trunk of the car the night before we were
to leave. Now, you really believe that a man who knew
our every move every single second of our lives
just “missed” all of that??? …no way…

…we finally dragged that big old suitcase – and
a bunch of little suitcases… and even bags of
groceries… outside to put it all in the trunk of the
car late at night… WAY past our bedtime… and had
flashlights going all over the place. …and he never knew???
…a blind dog in a rain storm would have seen us…

When daylight broke, we all ate breakfast and got
in the car to go for a “ride.” Since the entire
object of my father’s life was to keep the wheels
of the car rolling, no one was surprised when he
headed north and simply kept going – until it began
to get dark. “Now – heah now – we need to turn
around and start back…” Too late. “Who’s gonna feed
my chickens?” Lela… sit back and relax… it’s too late…
you’ve been kidnapped and you are GOING on vacation.

By the way… when we got back from that little
three-day practice vacation … and this is a direct
quote: “Well – Son – Where we goin next time?
…I got my little piece a money… you got yours?”

Soon after that, someone traded in a 1950
Cadillac – a living room on wheels - and Daddy kept
it as a vacation car because it would be comfortable
for Grandmother and Granddaddy to ride long distances
in. Little did I know that Granddaddy wouldn’t go
without us – so I would end up spending two of the
most miserable weeks of my life in that car.

Grandmother, Granddaddy, Mother, Daddy, and all
three granddaughters set out – headed due east –
through the Gulf states – up through the Smokeys
– due west to Illinois – and due south back to
Louisiana. I had to sit in the front seat between
Daddy and Grandmother - and I am here to tell you
that a 1950 Caddilac had the coldest air
conditioner EVER invented. That thing would have
been against the LAW today - and I was directly in
front of it for two solid weeks!!!

I don’t know if Susan ever went on vacation
with Daddy behind the wheel again or not… but I
can tell you that Jacque and I were NEVER dumb
enough to get in a car with my father again - EVER.
…and the point of keeping the wheels of the car
turning 16 hours a day for 2 solid weeks is…. ?????
It was horrible… BUT – you get a lot of talking done
on long trips… and that’s where we learned just how
it was that Grandmother and Granddaddy met
– and how he proposed to her.

This story was told by Granddaddy… with one
question answered by Grandmother at the end…
and our reaction was riotous…

It seems that Granddaddy walked to work in town
on the railroad tracks every day. …and every day,
he passed Grandmother’s house. Having become smitten
with her from afar, he started going to her church
so he could be involved in the youth activities
there and at least get to see her. He did mention
one particular hayride where they were on the same
wagon and he couldn’t take his eyes off of her
- but there was certainly no opportunity to actually
date - not as we know the term today.

World War I broke out and Granddaddy enlisted in
the Army. Soon after, he got orders to go to New
Orleans where he was to go to France on a troop
ship. Time was short and he had not, as yet, talked
to Grandmother. With no time left, he walked up to
her house to talk to her father, John Hamp Hardee.

Granddaddy stood on the ground and “Papa” stood on the
porch. “Sir, I’ve come to ask you if it would be ok with
you if I marry Nina before I ship out for France.”

… “Well, Son – I think you’re asking the wrong person…
Let’s get her out here and we’ll ask her.”

Papa called Grandmother to come out on the porch and
said, “Nina, this fella says he wants to marry you
before he ships out for France. Is that ok with you?”

I thought we would absolutely DIE from the suspense!!!

GRANDmother!!! What did you SAY???!!!

“I said, ‘Tee hee hee… yeeeessssssss.’”

Oh LORD… the car was rocking we were howling so
loud… we simply could not IMAGINE that Grandmother
and Granddaddy were ever “young”… and certainly
could not imagine such an exchange between them…
Looking back, I guess we never even considered the
fact that, at SOME point in their lives, they were
not married… and we would never have DREAMED that
OUR Grandmother had EVER said “Tee hee hee” in her LIFE…

When we all stopped carrying on, Grandmother
made matters even worse by going on to say,

"I thought he was so ka-Uuute..."

Needless to say - we were squealing again.

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Tom and Nina Hardee Dykes