Since Golden, a brakeman on the Union Pacific Railroad line, set up his trompe I'oeil, the joke has spread from his 500-acre farm into a community fad. Other department store castoffs now are found stuck into bales of hay, the head at one end and the legs protruding from the other. "We're all doing the same thing," Golden says, "trying to keep a neighbor going for another day, another week." In the summer Golden swaps the skates for flippers. It proves, he says, "that all us Nebraskans are not stuck in the mud."
Normally, you've got to be a real dummy to jump head over skates into an icy pond. In this case it's okay, since what appears to be a skater fallen on bad times is actually a discarded department store mannequin in a pond near North Platte, Nebr. "The farmers in this country are having quite a time of it," says Larry Golden, 47, who put the dummy in his pond about 11 years ago. "If I can make people smile once in a while, it's served a good purpose. When they come down the road, they see it and get a kick out of it. They stop and back up and just roar."