Auburn University vet students return to the site of a romantic wager for a Smith Mountain proposal
Drew Davis’ goal for as long as he could remember was to attend Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. It was a surreal moment when he got the call that he had been accepted into the DVM program, and he was eager to begin the journey toward his dream career. But when classes began, it was not the cutting-edge medical facilities, the animals or donning that lab coat that took his breath away; it was a girl who had grown up more than 2,000 miles away in California.
Davis, a native of Headland, Alabama, distinctly remembers the moment he first saw Lynae Bakland.
“It was one of those romantic movie moments where time slowed down and everything else faded out. She walked through the door across the hall with her hair blowing in the wind (probably) and immediately had my full attention,” Davis said.
Without skipping a beat, he learned her name, walked over and mustered up the words to speak to her.
“Not knowing anything else about her, I asked her what her name meant,” Davis said. “Her blue eyes turned to me for the first time to say ‘Lynae’ was actually a Norwegian name meaning ‘little blue flower.’”
He was smitten.
The two spent their days together from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that fall, learning the ins and outs of the veterinary world, while never missing the chance to steal a glance or smirk at each other from across the room. They eventually exchanged phone numbers after an emergency event involving her Great Dane, and they spoke nightly. Finally, during their second semester of vet school, Davis made the bold move to ask Bakland for an official date.
“It was late one Friday evening that I decided to ‘go for it’ by making a bet that a Southern California girl like her couldn’t keep up with a rural Southern Alabama guy on an adventure through the woods. We had just started to get to know each other, so I really didn’t think if she would even come follow me through the woods,” said Davis.
To his pleasant surprise, Lynae agreed instantly and matched Drew step-for-step on a hike up to the Smith Mountain Fire Tower that night.
Looking back on that evening, the two both knew that would be their last first date for the rest of their lives. Over the next two years of courtship and vet school, Davis and Bakland fell in love.
Following a Christmas vacation with Bakland’s family in California, Davis began to plan the ultimate proposal for his future bride. He decided the perfect time to pop the question would be when her family was in town from California for the weekend of the Veterinary White Coat Ceremony. With the time and date set, Davis knew there was one specific detail that he had to incorporate into the proposal.
“Lynae is well-known by her family, friends and classmates for loving all things goat and goat-kid related. She has raised bottle babies and could defeat even the smartest expert on caprine (goat) trivia,” Davis explained.
Keeping this in mind, Davis reached out to Dr. BJ Newcomer, clinical instructor of Farm Animal Internal Medicine at AUCVM. He asked if he knew of any individuals or farms in the Auburn-Opelika area from which he might borrow a goat kid for the proposal. Within a day, Newcomer found “Hercules,” a handsome Boer goat with a big personality.
With Hercules and a small army of close friends and family on board, Davis only had to convince Bakland to take a hike to the Smith Mountain Fire Tower after a long week of final exams. With some prodding and well-placed suggestions from Lynae’s sisters and brother, she agreed to go on a sunset hike and later eat at Kowaliga Restaurant.
This time, she had the surprise of her life waiting for her at the top of the mountain.
Hours before the proposal, friends had traveled to Smith Mountain to string café lights, scatter rose petals and, of course, set the stage with Hercules. Everything seemed to be falling into place until the actual hike approached the proposal spot.
“About three-quarters of the way up, we began to hear an awful yell,” Davis said.
He knew it was Hercules, but Bakland was clueless about its origin or the circumstances surrounding it.
“Lynae later told me she was worried that a man had fallen from the fire tower and was injured, so we hurried up the hill,” he said.
Eventually, the group – the couple and family members, all trying to hide their laughter and excitement – made it to the top of the mountain, where Bakland discovered the source of the yelling: Hercules. The little Boer goat kid just couldn’t stand being left alone amidst the romantic scene Davis had arranged.
“I asked Lynae to read the collar around Hercules’ neck, which had “Marry me?” engraved on the name tag. When she turned around, I was down on one knee, and she immediately said ‘Yes!’”
Their friends came out of hiding, along with Davis’ mother, to join the celebration.
“I’m not sure the evening could have been any more perfect, but I do know one thing; that little guy made it impossible to say no,” Davis added.
The couple plans to marry in Asheville, North Carolina, in the summer on the majestic Roan Mountain with their friends and close family in attendance.
Following graduation, Davis said, they plan to roll with whatever plans God has in store for them. He hopes to eventually become a small-animal surgeon specializing in soft tissue and orthopedic surgery; Bakland will focus on both small and large animals, with a special interest in small ruminants, which forever will be a reminder of the romantic proposal on Smith Mountain.