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15-year-old’s message in a bottle turns up eight years later

Mike Olthoff of Kent, Minn., found a message in a bottle from a 15-year-old girl named Siera from Breckenridge, Minn. SUBMITTED PHOTO

KENT, Minn. – Mike Olthoff was scouring the woods for deer antlers near his home in Kent this month when he stumbled across something sticking out of the mud that “didn’t quite look right.”

After plucking what looked like a discarded olive oil bottle out of the mud, Olthoff realized that his find was not litter, but a message in a bottle.

“I didn’t know what to think,” Olthoff said of his May 7 discovery. “At first, because the bottle was really heavy-duty glass, I thought it was maybe 100 years old. So, I was pretty anxious to see what was in it, but I wanted to share it – I didn’t want to open it alone.”

Olthoff, a human resource management student, said he brought the bottle to Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead the following Friday to open among his classmates.

Though it wasn’t the century-old artifact Olthoff anticipated, he said the contents he found were “pretty cute.”

“Dear loved somebody,” opened the letter, which was dated June 31, 2006.

The author, a 15-year-old girl named Siera from Breckenridge, went on to explain that her whole family had written messages in bottles and thrown them into the river.

Siera continued: “Who are you? Where are you from? Are you an evil stalker person? Because if not, you are going to be my pen-pal.”

The letter’s author, Siera Struss, now 22, lives in Sioux Falls, S.D., where she is studying to be a midwife.

“She was really surprised,” said Struss’ mother, Tracy Jipson. “She said that she had probably thrown a bunch of them in there, because she thought it was a neat idea. She has two little girls now, ages 2 and 3, so she is thinking of doing something like that with them.”

Jipson said she had suggested the family write messages in bottles as part of a project she started while home-schooling her children.

Olthoff said a crayon drawing of a blonde, blue-eyed girl with “a great big smile” standing on the planet Earth accompanied the letter, an addition that Jipson said was drawn by her daughter Sidney Eskildsen, now 16.

Jipson said Eskildsen “giggled a lot” when she’d heard her drawing had been found.

“She thought it was neat, but she didn’t even remember doing it,” Jipson said.

Despite the request, it sounds like the sender and finder aren’t bound to be pen pals. Having dislodged the bottle from the mud, Olthoff said he plans to pass the message along.

“I’m going to wrap up their letters and then put a little note of my own in there saying when I found it,” he said. “Then I’ll put it back in the bottle, seal it with wax and see if anybody finds it again.”