Watford City, North Dakota. Population 6,027. Unless somebody died last night. You’re looking at a whole lot of rocks and dirt out here.
The town of Watford City is a fleck-on-the-map hamlet located within the Badlands of the Roughrider State. It’s your quintessential Western town. You’ve got everything here you’d need to be happy. You have a hardware store, a pharmacy, a beer joint, American Legion Post 29, and a phonebook with at least six pages.
And, of course, there is the giant eight-ton bust of Theodore Roosevelt standing outside the local motel, which attracts dozens of tourists each year.
Senior prom was last week, which is a big deal in a town like Watford City. And, thanks to the Internet Age, prom is an even bigger deal these days because of something called a “promposal.”
For those who have been living on planet Jupiter, today’s teens rarely just ask someone to prom. They “prompose.” This is like a marriage proposal for high-schoolers wherein a teen pulls an elaborate stunt to ask his date to prom. This is usually videoed or photographed for social media.
Promposals are meant to be cute, but sometimes they can get downright freaky. Some teens go all out for their promposals.
Some young men have organized streetwide flash mobs to propose to their dates.
One kid from Pennsylvania tandem-skydived for his promposal, wearing only his underpants, carrying a banner that read “I just ‘dropped in’ to ask you to prom.”
She said no.
One poor kid in Nevada videoed his promposal by bringing donuts to a girl’s house. In the video, a girl answers the door wearing a huge smile. She is clearly overwhelmed by the gesture when she excitedly says, “Oh my gosh!”
At this point, the 16-year-old nuclear physicist holding the donuts looks shocked. There is a long moment of awkwardness before the boy finally says something like: “Wait, this is the wrong house.”
Then, as if this poor girl wasn’t embarrassed enough, the kid posts this video online, the footage goes viral, and eventually winds up on the national morning show circuit where snappily dressed TV hosts dedicate a half hour to talking about it.
You have to worry about America.
Which brings us to Dakota Wollan. Dakota is a senior in McKenzie County who decided not to play the modern promposal game. No flash mobs, no private jets, no bungee jumping in thong underwear. Instead, the young man asked his 92-year-old great-grandmother to accompany him to prom.
His great-grandmother, Madeline Miller, is from a different America than the one we live in. She was born when Herbert Hoover was still in the White House. Booze was still illegal, and there was a Depression on.
Madeline never got the chance to go to prom because she didn’t finish high school. As a girl, she dropped out of school to help her family shovel manure and feed chickens on the farm.
“My grandma had this old truck, Dakota told KYFR-TV. “It’s a 1985 Dodge, and she handed that down to me, and I thought that would be a great way to ask her to prom.”
So Dakota crawled into his ‘85 Ram, swung by the store to pick up some flowers, then cruised to Granny’s house, wearing his nicest daywear Stetson.
“I was pretty nervous, yes,” he said.
Dakota presented his grandmother with a promposal poster-board sign that read: “Will you go to prom with me in this old truck?”
His grandmother was unable to speak.
“I was just wondering why,” said Madeline. “Why would he want a 92-year-old lady going to the prom with him when there are so many girls at school?”
So Dakota told her. He said that he wanted to make a memory together. He wanted to accompany her to her very first prom. He told her it would be an honor.
She said yes.
When the big night came, Dakota eased into Granny’s driveway with 140 horses rumbling beneath the hood. He leapt out of his vehicle and trotted to the door. A little nervous. He wore a silver dinner jacket, white tie, dress ropers, and a silverbelly Stetson.
His grandmother opened the door. She was wearing a pale pink gown, makeup, and her hair was coiffed to Aquanet perfection.
He extended a corsage to her. “I brought you something,” he said.
When they got to the school gymnasium, the school was done up in colorful balloons and twinkling lights, the parking lot was packed, and it was a chilly night in Watford City.
They entered the doors. Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon” was playing overhead. When Dakota and Madeline took to the dancefloor, they did not go unnoticed.
The applause started small. Then it got louder until it became a deafening roar. Many prom-goers were dabbing their eyes with napkins and sniffing their noses. Flashbulbs were firing like artillery.
Madeline said, “Walking beside my great-grandson, listening to all this music, as we walked, and people clapping, and hollering… That was… Yeah.”
They danced to one song. Then Dakota took his date home, and like a gentleman, he walked her to the door. No social-media frenzy. No skydiving. No big fuss. Just a kid and his grandma.
When asked how the night went, Dakota said: “It is one of the best experiences you will ever have.”