Two 'lives' stuffed full of fun and adventure

The pranksters of Swanson Pond have revealed themselves, but they haven't promised to call off their summertime high jinks. The long-running adventures have been too much fun. It all started when Evlyn Swanson created a fishing dummy named Oscar ...

The pranksters of Swanson Pond have revealed themselves, but they haven't promised to call off their summertime high jinks.

The long-running adventures have been too much fun.

It all started when Evlyn Swanson created a fishing dummy named Oscar and her husband, Mike, placed him at the end of the dock. That was July 23, 1998, according to Evlyn's journal.

Oscar could be seen from County Road 40, but no passersby admitted seeing Oscar's disappearance a couple of weeks later.

Evlyn drove all over looking for Oscar and Mike called a sheriff's deputy to report the "incident."


Three days later, Oscar returned, dressed as a girl. A note attached to him said he'd been to Bermuda.

The neighbors, the Baumanns, were the Swansons' top suspects.

Re-outfitted, Oscar spent the cold winter and most of the summer alone. In August 1999, he disappeared again and came back with a partner, "Slippery Sue."

The dressing and redressing of the mannequins and notes of their travels continued every August.

In 2000, they were married, returning to the Swansons' dock in their wedding clothes.

One year, when Oscar and Slippery Sue returned, they had moved up in the world. They were floating on Swanson Pond aboard a pontoon.

At that point, Mike said, "We figured it was a local, not someone from southern Iowa."

Sunday, the "kidnappers" confessed. The mystery was solved. The August "thieves in the night" were from Eagle Beach Resort across the road.


It turns out, Oscar and Slippery Sue have entertained resort guests and a generation of their offspring.

Sarah (Coumbe) Guida said the summer Oscar and Slippery Sue were married, her husband Travis performed the ceremony and the event became part of a talent show at the resort.

"She was tricky to dress," Sarah said, describing some of Slippery Sue's bulges.

The wedding dress was a Liz Claiborne. In appreciation, Elsie wore it for Halloween one year.

Stealing the dummies became a rite of passage for kids staying at the resort the same week in August every year.

"You had to be 12," Travis said. He served as guide of the interlopers who walked about half a mile through the woods without flashlights at midnight.

Sarah said they were a little nervous they'd get caught and weren't sure if the Swansons appreciated their humor or not.

In June 2003, they learned the Swansons were curious, but enjoyed the yearly tradition when the Enterprise ran a story about the tomfoolery.


"After that, we really beefed it up," Sarah said.

By 2004, Oscar and Slippery Sue had two children, Molly Mae and Billy Bob, and a dog. Then they went on an African safari and came home with a tiger.

In a contest, resort guests named the tiger - Oscar's Meyer, of course.

Over the years, resort guests looked forward to the ritual, bringing black clothes for the kids to wear so they wouldn't get caught. Sarah also has taken the guests to rummage sales and Bearly Used to find outfits.

Sarah's brother, Matt, took them on trips, posing the dummies by road signs to prove they had traveled the state. Once a state trooper stopped Matt, even though Oscar and Slippery Sue were properly buckled.

"The trooper just shook his head and said, 'I don't even want to know,'" Sarah related.

The adventures are well documented. Besides Evlyn's journal, she, the Baumanns and some of the resort guests have photo albums.

Over the years, Evelyn said, they prayed for Oscar and Slippery Sue's well being at prayer breakfasts and considered resort guests as possible suspects in the capers after ruling out the neighbors, who continued to plead their innocence.


Before last weekend's revelation, Sarah and Travis created a new chapter in the lives of Oscar and Slippery Sue. Deciding the couple had tired of being labeled as dummies, they reappeared as college grads, wearing a 1993 Park Rapids High School graduation gown with the original corsage and a 1991 graduation gown from Bemidji State.

Oscar earned a degree in aquatic theology from Bethel University in St. Paul; Slippery Sue came back from Harvard with a degree in microbiology, all the better to study her environment.

As they were preparing the grads, Elsie's granddaughter, Christy Donahue, came to Eagle Beach to play tennis and almost caught the culprits.

"It was like they'd discovered gold" when the Swansons and their neighbors got the invite to Eagle Beach and discovered the pranksters' true identity, Mike said.

The mystery isn't over, however. When Sarah told her brother Matt they'd been busted, he reminded the children are still missing in action. In 2005, Molly Mae and Billy Bob went away to boarding school. "Their travel adventures aren't over," Matt assures.

"It's fun to know it meant as much to you guys as it did to us," Sarah said. "Every year was a story."

Her dad, John, adds philosophically: "When you drop a pebble in the pond, you don't know where it will ripple."

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