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Driving out that afternoon toward the main lake, I came upon what appeared to be a man who'd gotten stuck diving into the snow-laden ice, an empty bottle of schnapps nearby.

"That's Fred -- he gets a lot of attention," Carl Johnson, who hails from Grand Rapids, Minn., said of his make-believe, accident-prone friend. (Johnson created Fred with mannequin legs.) "Every year someone actually tries to save Fred from freezing or drowning."

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