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No matter what you did for an Elmo doll, this guy’s got you beat

December 24, 1996

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) _ So you think you had to work hard to track down a Tickle Me Elmo doll? Bet you didn’t have to slog through a mile of waist-deep, 42-degree swamp water while watching for alligators.

Johnny Wells did all that. And unlike a lot of frenzied Christmas shoppers, he didn’t have to do it.

``I had never even seen″ a Tickle Me Elmo, he said Tuesday. ``I just wanted to know what the commotion was all about.″

Elmo was part of a promotion by radio station WAEV, which attached the giggling doll to 40 balloons Monday and released it on a flight across the city. The doll eventually hit power lines and fell into a salt marsh.

Wells, 28, saw the splash-down, called WAEV and said he could reach the doll if someone offered him a boat ride across the Forest River. A fisherman obliged and took him to the edge of the marsh, where Wells jumped in.

He said it took him about an hour to slog through the muck to reach the doll and return to the boat.

``It was pretty bad, pretty cold,″ he said. ``The only thing I was worried about was alligators. I didn’t see any, thank God.″

After all that, he sold Elmo to the boat captain for $150.

``Yes, sir, it was worth it,″ said Wells, who watched as the boater gave the doll to his young daughter. ``To actually see his daughter’s face _ she was just overwhelmed, extremely happy.″

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