When Alan Pruett and Denise Surprenant were married last fall, Alan chose for the groom’s wedding party a few of his close friends and one dummy named Claude. Claude was included only because he had been hanging around Alan’s house for the past few years, wearing Alan’s clothes and even his shoes, all of which happen to be Claude’s size. Alan even had to bail Claude out of jail once. That Claude, he’s a real dummy.

When Alan Pruett and Denise Surprenant were married last fall, Alan chose for the groom’s wedding party a few of his close friends and one dummy named Claude.


Claude was included only because he had been hanging around Alan’s house for the past few years, wearing Alan’s clothes and even his shoes, all of which happen to be Claude’s size. Alan even had to bail Claude out of jail once.


That Claude, he’s a real dummy.


One of Alan’s friends got the dummy, which looks like the kind firefighters use for training. Its arms and legs bend, and it is very heavy. It’s not your average department store mannequin.


Alan’s friend originally used it to play a joke on his girlfriend. One night before she left work, this friend put the mannequin in his girlfriend’s car, propped up in the front seat.


“She stood out there talking to the guy, yelling at him to get out of her car,” Alan recalls. And that started the joke.


“I told the guy I’d like to have that,” Alan says. “He said if I could pick it up I could have it. It weighs about 170 pounds.”


Alan did pick it up, and he took it to his house on Pawnee Road. There, he has put it in a variety of poses. He had it riding a motorcycle for a while. He named it Claude.


“Once I had the thing laying in the backyard with no clothes on it,” Alan says. “Another friend and his wife drove by and she said, ‘Hey, is that your buddy lying out back, naked?’


“On the way back he was still in the backyard. She said, ‘You better go back and check. He might be dead.’ So they turned around and checked it out.” It was just Claude.


In the past few years, Claude has become a landmark for travelers, as in “Go down Pawnee Road about two miles past the dummy and then turn left.”


Claude is leaning on the fence outside of Alan and Denise’s house right now, either feeding a goose or chasing it away – it depends on your perspective. Claude is wearing Alan’s clothes and a baseball cap that says “God Answers Prayer.”


Being outside for so long has faded Claude’s goatee. He could use a touchup. Otherwise, he appears to be in good shape.


The idea of having Claude stand up for Alan and Denise was hatched before their October wedding on the Pawnee square. Alan dressed Claude in one of his old suits. The minister, a very patient Methodist, went along with it. He asked who was going to give Denise away, and the consensus choice was Claude.


“Can he raise his arm?” the minister asked. Sure he can. So they put Claude in a wheelchair and raised his arm for the ceremony. He was a hit at the reception, too, having his picture taken with bridesmaids sitting on his lap.


Claude does get into trouble now and then. Hence the night Alan received a phone call from the Pawnee P.D. to tell him they had his dummy in custody.


“No,” Alan said, “he’s right outside.”


“You better check that,” the officer said. “We have him here at the station.”


Alan looked out the front window and, sure enough, Claude was gone. Somebody had made off with him, took him into Pawnee and propped him up outside the Casey’s General Store.


“The police got a call from someone at Casey’s,” Alan says, “reporting a drunken derelict leaning up against their wall.”


Of course, the officers knew who the dummy belonged to. Claude was eventually released on his own recognizance. He has been confined to his home ever since.


Dave Bakke can be reached at (217) 788-1541 or dave.bakke@sj-r.com.