The Great River Road, Part 17: Kyle-Laci Engagement, An Oral History

“I choose you and I’ll choose you. Over and over and over without pause, without a doubt, in a heartbeat I’ll keep choosing you.”       – Unknown

September 24, 2015 – Day 26 – Searcy, Arkansas

 We left Petit Jean State Park and traveled east to Harding University in Searcy. I was there just long enough to hook up the RV, hug Kyle’s neck and have lunch. I then departed in the Fit for a quick trip to Tullahoma, TN, to finish up my root canal. Lil Jan stayed behind to visit with Kyle, Laci, and their friends.

September 25, 2015 – Day 27 – Searcy, Arkansas

Lil Jan got to hear Kyle speak in chapel this morning, which is a cool thing for a parent to get to do. Meanwhile, with my troubled tooth fixed, I returned to Searcy that evening and was greeted by Kyle, Laci and twelve of their friends hanging out in our RV! We had cake and ice cream to celebrate Kyle’s 22nd birthday. Both of our sons have made such great Christian friends at Harding. We love being around them. We went to bed that night with great anticipation about tomorrow’s agenda. The plan was for us to go hiking with Kyle and Laci. And now, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story…

September 26, 2015 – Day 28 – Sugarloaf Mountain, Arkansas

On the morning of September 26th, 2015, Steven Kyle Johnson proposed to Hannah Laci Genry atop Sugarloaf Mountain in Arkansas. The events leading up to, during, and after the proposal can best be told by those who were there. Here, then, is the definitive oral history of #kylelaciengagement, precursor of #downtheaislewithkyle.

Setting the Stage 

Mark Adams, former Youth Minister, Old Hickory Church of Christ: I’ll start. It’s my fault. There…I said it. I hired them both as youth interns, and clearly laid out the rules.

Laci:  There were rules?

Mark:  One of those rules was “no dating the other intern”…but I failed to include “no marrying the other intern”. My bad…this whole thing’s on me.

Mark... "Supervisor"
Mark… the “Supervisor”

Kyle: My initial plan was to date every girl in Zeta Rho, alphabetically.

Rachel, Jason’s wife: How shallow.

Options, options, options
Options, options, options

Kyle: I started with A… Abbie Stumne. I had feelings for Abbie going back to 3rd grade. Then she went off and got married. Whatever.

Abbie: Kyle Johnston? I vaguely remember him.

Abbie, or Not Abbie
Abbie, or Not Abbie, That is the Question

Kyle: I moved on to the B’s…Bissell, Olivia. Great potential, but she dumped me and suggested I consider becoming a eunuch in a remote colony off the coast of Greece.  So I did.

Brotherhood of Eunuchs
Brotherhood of Eunuchs

Ken Bissell, Olivia’s Dad: I insisted Olivia break up with Kyle. Before anyone else, I knew that he would end up with Olivia’s best friend, Laci. It was pre-destined, and I wasn’t going to let my own daughter get in the way of destiny.

Over to you...
Over to you…

Olivia: Kyle was cute and all, but the long neck was a showstopper. His kids will look like E.T., and I wanted no part of that. I felt bad, but I had to cut him loose.

Laci: I’d like to say something here…

Kyle: Next up was C…Chelese. The attraction there was real, and I thought it was mutual. But she wanted to keep it platonic. Letter by letter, girl by girl, the pattern of rejection continued.

Decisions, Decisions
Decisions, Decisions

Kyle: Rejection after rejection, I worked my way through the Zeta Rho alphabet.  Time seemed to be running out.  Then I got a break.  While hanging out at the Caf, I developed a bit of a crush on Mrs. Norma. She was always so kind and nurturing to me. Between her and the smell of vegetables, I felt at home in the Caf.

Mrs. Norma, Harding Caf: Kyle was like a son to me. More like a distant stepson from a 3rd marriage who you never really got close to…but a son nonetheless.

Kyle:  My desperation continued.  I was determined to find love somewhere.

Awkward Times
Awkward I
Awkward II
Awkward II

Jason:  We worried about Kyle’s downward spiral.  It seemed only a matter of time that he would hit rock bottom…

Awkward Times II
Rock Bottom

Kyle:  I was in a bad place.  Sometimes I’d wake up with no clue where I was…


The Courtship

Mark:  Kyle clearly was in a desperate place, so I brought him on as a youth intern.

Kyle:  Game changer.  I even convinced him to also hire my “friend”, Laci Genry.

Mark: Rules for interns are critical, and I left out an obvious one… “Do not make dance videos together.” That’s where the first sparks occurred. This one’s on me, folks. It happened on my watch. I felt so bad about it I moved to south Texas and went into hiding near the border.

Jim Oliver, elder, Old Hickory Church of Christ: They made dance videos?

Tami, Laci’s mom: Laci didn’t date much in high school. She mainly did sign language and stared at couches. We just assumed she would return home and live with us after college.

Can I just say one thing about couches?
Can I just say one thing about couches?

Dr. Youngblood, Harding faculty: Θέλεις να χορέψεις μαζί μου; (thélis na horépsis mazí mu?)

Laci: What was that?

Caleb, Laci’s brother:  Mom’s right…Laci didn’t date much.  A lot of guys were scared of her.  I’m not sure why.

Nuff Said
Nuff Said

Tim, Laci’s dad: A lot of people thought she was home-schooled. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Kyle: Sure there were feelings for Laci during the intern dance videos. I felt her knee hit my back as she tried to somersault me. Those feelings were real.

Laci: Can I just make one point?

Janet, Kyle’s mom: When Kyle first told us he had feelings for Laci, I asked, “Don’t you mean Abbie?”

Steve, Kyle’s dad: My first thought was, “Who’s Laci?” Then he showed me the dance videos. I wept.

"I really like her, mom"
“I really like her, mom”

Kyle: It seems immature now, but I asked the Harding CAB to sponsor a contest and award a prize for the video with the best pickup lines. I didn’t want the prize…I just wanted to practice my pickup lines on Laci.

Laci: We won the contest. I had no clue Kyle was actually trying to ask me out.

The Ring…

Tim: It all happened so fast. He started coming home with Laci. We considered moving.

Kyle Creepily Stalks the Family
Kyle Creepily Stalks the Family

Tami: When she told me how she felt about Kyle, I immediately reserved the wedding venue, and began crocheting the bridesmaids’ dresses.

Steve: Kyle was reluctant to buy an engagement ring. He said it would cost money. That’s something people don’t think about.

Larry Alexander, Challenge Point Director: I have tried to mentor Kyle by leading him on several wilderness hikes. One night he secretly pooped right on the trail, violating “Leave no Trace” principles and common human decency. I’m not sure a guy who would do that should be getting engaged, much less married.

Janet: I immediately started texting Tami about the rehearsal dinner and what they should name our first grandbaby. These were such exciting times!

Laci: As far as the ring is concerned…

Jason: He called me for ring advice. I suggested a diamond ring. And a good shave.  It felt good to be a part of the process and help my little brother.


Colby, Laci’s brother: I found out this Kyle guy was a Tennessee fan. 4.5 billion men on the planet, and she falls for a Tennessee fan? You’ve got to be kidding me. That’s not how we roll (tide) in this family. Get it?

Tami: When I heard Kyle was shopping for a ring, I was so thankful that I had already purchased the wedding flowers and decorations. I hope the roses keep.

Olivia: When I heard he was shopping for a ring, I sent him a letter, certified mail.  My dad paid the postage. I wrote, “Dear Kyle, You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me…But we are never ever ever getting back together.”

Tim: Kyle called me to get my permission. Again and again. Finally, after dozens of calls, I suggested that together we search the Scriptures for guidance. I took him to 1 Corinthians 7:1, which reads, “It is good for a man not to marry.” As a Bible major, I thought Kyle would understand the passage and take it to heart.

Jason: Things were getting serious between them. I said to myself, “Does she know about his chest?” It’s not even. If he were a woman, he’d wear two different cup sizes. On their wedding night, I didn’t want her to see his chest and say, “Whoa, what’s up with that?”

The Approach to Sugarloaf Mountain

Landon, Laci’s brother: The big day had finally arrived. We were going to climb Sugarloaf Mountain and hide in the trees to watch the proposal. As the most physically gifted member of the engagement party, I put the team on my back and took them all to the top.

Janet: I struggled with what to wear on engagement day. Spandex pants with a t-shirt, or an entire fluorescent unitard. This day was mostly about them, but also about me…I AM the mother of the groom!

Spandex marks the spot
Spandex marks the spot

Landon: I wore spandex to basketball practice one time and it itched horribly. That wasn’t an option for me. Instead I wore a tank top to show off my muscles.

Dr. Youngblood: I’ve never worn spandex.

Jason: Honestly, I wasn’t sure about mom’s spandex pants. They looked spray-painted on. I’m not even sure they are allowed on Sugarloaf.

Kyle: Despite mom’s bright spandex pants, it was a beautiful day to climb a mountain and get engaged. At each level of rock formation, I extended my neck to look for the next foothold.

Laci: Whenever I hike or exercise, I think about the creepy skeleton inside of my body, mimicking my every move. Does that bother anyone else?

Mandy, Steve’s former dog: I wasn’t able to do the hike…for obvious reasons.

Dr. McLarty, Harding President: I wasn’t on the hike either. But I’d like to add that of all the SA Presidents we’ve had at Harding, Kyle is the most recent.

Steve: I’m not big on heights, but I focused on two things: the summit, and the glowing spandex that called out to me like a beacon in the night.

Summiting Sugarloaf

Cody Sabando, Steve’s former student: I was the first to summit. I had no idea what was going on. I’m just a freshman at Harding.

Steve: Cody, you’re not part of the engagement party. Why are you on this blog?

Cody: The first thing I noticed was a group of mostly older looking people crawling out from the highest rock. They were breathing heavily. They looked like the zombies from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.

Steve: Cody, get out of this oral history.

 Jason: We were all so excited to summit and get to our hiding places behind the grassy knoll. Once there, I noticed Miss Tami sat down on a rock and began working on what appeared to be wedding invitations. Strangest thing.

Colby: As the designated cameraman, I zoomed my lens on the final rock near the summit, hoping to get a shot of Kyle and Laci emerging. Instead, I saw a woman who appeared to be dragging a parachute.

Rachel: It was Janet in her spandex. I told Colby to look away.

Laci: As we summited the mountain, I had my suspicions that today might be the day. Kyle had more back sweat than usual. Do they make deodorant for the back?

Kyle: I went through my final mental checklist. Get her off to the side with the pretty view. Pull out the Bible with “Laci Johnson” engraved on it. Pull out the ring. Say the right things. Have her sign the pre-nup. Be ready with a rebuttal in case she says “No”.

Tim: I had secretly highlighted in the Bible some passages for Kyle to consider. One was Proverbs 21:9, which reads, “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” Yes, this was my version of a hail-Mary pass.

Colby: Summiting was so exhilarating! I celebrated with a freestanding backflip and went straight into a split. My little sister’s life was about to change!

The Proposal

Kyle: I took her hand and looked deep into her eyes. This was the woman of my dreams…the woman I love. I want to spend the rest of my life with her and make dance videos and children.

Laci: As he took my hand and looked into my eyes, I noticed his face was red and puffy…kind of like an Oompa Loompa.

Kevin Fields, Kyle’s host dad, near St Louis: I wasn’t invited to this event…apparently because a host dad is “not family”. Whatever. I have nothing to add.

Jason: I was concerned that Kyle might vomit. He vomits under stress. He has vomited after several 5K races, including all of the Fishhawk Turkey Trots. Race organizers even considered changing the name to the Turkey Vomits.

Looking Out for His Brother Since the Early 90s
Looking Out for His Brother Since the Early 90s

Kyle: I was nervous, all right, but I said all the things I wanted to say. Most of it I got from Hallmark cards. I read some Scripture and told her I was ready for our stories to merge. I told her she didn’t have to give up being a Crimson Tide fan…God’s grace would cover that.

Jason: Kyle vomited when Tony Romo got injured and when Olivia dumped him. Whether Laci says, “Yes” or “No”, there’s a decent chance he’s going to vomit on Sugarloaf. Zoom in, Colby.

Laci:   Honestly, I don’t remember what he said. It all happened so fast. He looked sweet, and sincere, and puffy. I thought he was going to pass out.

Janet: I missed most of it. My spandex got caught on a live oak and by the time I realized it, I had catapulted like a slingshot across the summit.

Tami: I missed most of it too. I was writing a 7-page text to Jenny Diamond to get her suggestions on wedding music.

Tim: I saw the whole thing. As Kyle took a knee, I began throwing little pebbles at them, hoping to throw him off his game. There’s nothing I could do to stop this. I blame Mark Adams. In fact, we all do.

On the Summit
On the Summit

Colby: I got some great shots, although Kyle’s neck is extended on some of them and he appears to be eating leaves from a tree.

Kyle: I asked her to be my wife. I’m all in on this girl.

Laci: I hesitated. Do I really want to do this? His parents live in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Carolina Adams, Mark’s wife:  They’re gypsies, I tell ya.

Kyle: She hesitated. I asked again, with all the emotion an ENTJ can muster. She could sense the desperation in my voice. There was a no-return policy on the ring.

Laci: I felt bad for him. I said yes. The ring is beautiful. A new sectional sofa can’t be far behind.

Landon: I’m not just losing a sister; I’m gaining a 3rd brother. I need a hug.

Colby: She appeared to say, “Yes”. It was so touching. Tears ran down my leg.

The Aftermath

Caleb: The descent was easier than we expected. We were able to stretch out one of Miss Janet’s pant legs and rappel down the mountain.

They love their sister!
They love their sister!

Kyle: I still can’t believe she said, “Yes”. I’m the luckiest man on the face of the planet.

Laci: I still can’t believe I said, “Yes”. He’s the luckiest guy on the face of the planet.

Olivia & Ken, in unison, with feeling:  “Never ever ever ever getting back together.”

The Moment of Truth
The Moment of Truth

Tim: She said, “Yes”? Seriously? Can we check the audio on that?

Chelese: He was interested in me? I so would have gone for that. Call me, Kyle.

Kyle: Once the word got out that we were engaged, the advice started coming in…

Dr. Cox, Harding faculty: In Daur, China, there is a tradition that requires engaged couples to dissect a chicken and examine its liver. If the liver is healthy, the couple can set a date. If not, they can’t plan their nuptials until they find one that is. Kyle and Laci set a date without dissecting a chicken. This is problematic.

Brett Taylor, Kyle’s friend: I’m so happy for them. I only hope that some day they can be half as close as Kyle and I are.

Ocean Bromance
Ocean Bromance

Sue Davenport, giraffe exhibit curator, Memphis Zoo: Kyle visits here often. He and Laci will always have a home here at the exhibit.

Tami: I went ahead and scheduled a bridal tea, with crumpets.

Mrs. Norma, Harding Caf: I’m happy for them, but even happier to know he loved me first. Truth be told, I think he liked the smell of canned green beans as he approached the Caf. He likes them “greased and highly flavored.”

Alex Traughber, Kyle’s friend: So then, Chelese is still on the market? Hmmm.

Landon: Going down the mountain, I glanced down at my ripped, sweaty biceps. We all did.

The Descent
The Descent

Jason: I can’t believe Kyle didn’t vomit. After she said, “Yes”, we decided to celebrate at a Mexican restaurant. I was certain he would vomit there.

La gran fiesta
La gran fiesta

Tami: This will be the most emotional wedding ever. Even the cake will be in tiers.

Caleb: Good one, mom.

Dr. McLarty: I’m not even sure this engagement is legit. We have a strict “3 swings and a ring” policy at Harding. I’m told Kyle and Laci had one swing at most. My guys are checking the campus video archives.

Ken Bissell: I called it first! Are we all in agreement that I should be best man?

Mark Adams: God brought them together. I was just the facilitator. Do I expect most of the credit? Sure. Should they name their first child after me? Absolutely.

Janet and Tami (in unison): Bring on some grandbabies!

So there you have it…the definitive account of Laci and Kyle’s Sugarloaf Mountain engagement from those who were there.

I Like Their Chances
I Like Their Chances

All kidding aside, Lil Jan and I are absolutely thrilled that God brought these two young people together. Laci is an amazing young Christian lady and will make a great addition to the Johnson family. And we love how the Genry’s have opened a spot for Kyle in their family. We are looking forward to seeing Kyle and Laci grow together, serve together, and perhaps even make an occasional dance video together.

Big Steve

It Has a Ring to It
It Does Have a Ring to It
Ring Ceremony Celebration
Ring Ceremony Celebration














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8 thoughts on “The Great River Road, Part 17: Kyle-Laci Engagement, An Oral History”

  1. HYSTERICAL!!!!Love those pants Janet!
    Congratulations Laci and Kyle! May God bless you both with many wonderful years together!

  2. Three thoughts… (1) I’m flattered to play a role in this classic piece of literary/dramatic prose; (B) Steve failed to mention that Olivia’s twin brother Aaron dated Laci while Kyle dated Olivia, and both couples broke up the same night, an omen if there ever was one; (3) my wife Renee deserves part of the credit for pegging Kyle and Laci before anyone else saw it coming. I’m pretty sure their first kiss was in our back yard…or maybe it was their first fight. I’m not sure; and (D) since I have a long neck too (though not as long as Kyle’s), I’m pretty sure Olivia’s offspring will take on that physical trait. Lord only knows how long they would be had she stayed with Kyle…instead of giraffe, they might have been of brontosaurus proportions.

    1. Ken – (1) McConaughey has agreed to play your part in the movie adaptation. (2) Good point. I’m thinking you, Aaron, and Olivia all conspired on the two dating relationships just to bring this about. All the more reason to name their first child after you. (3) They’ve kissed already? (4) Another good point. Get ready for giraffe-like grandkids!

  3. Super read to start my day. Janet, the pants?? You only have room for 3 pairs in that RV and those are one of them? I think Steve and Kyle set you up.
    Kyle (favorite son according to him): Mom, you know those super cute pants that Big Steve bought you for your birthday? Those are perfect for today’s hike.
    Big Steve: Nice move son. Your proposal photos are going to be much more special now that all eyes will hover over Lil Jan’s spandex. Always thinking of your mother first. Maybe you are the favorite child.

    1. Syndi – I considered giving the pants to Ken to put on Henry for Halloween, but Lil J wants to keep them and wear them again when our first grandchild gets engaged. We need an intervention.

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