Twenty years ago, an “Eager Beaver” backyard wood chipper became an accidental movie icon. In its star-making scene, the chipper is about as grisly as the Coen Brothers get, sucking down Steve Buscemi’s body parts until all that’s left is his right foot and bloody gym sock.
The Eager Beaver can now be found tickling tourists and movie fans at the F + M Visitors Center, just off the interstate on the west side of Fargo. Despite the gore at the heart of the scene, the prop has been a big hit for the tourist bureau, who have embraced the movie and the Eager Beaver wholeheartedly. They’ve even added a mannequin’s leg and gym sock to the tableau (minus all the blood).
The film Fargo was released in 1996, as a low-budget follow-up to the brothers’ overblown Hudsucker Proxy from two years earlier. Getting back to their down-and-dirty film roots, the pivotal scene is simple and quiet, with the Eager Beaver (a fictional brand, based on an actual chipper called the Wood Chuck) grinding up one of the movie’s inept kidnappers until police officer Marge Gunderson arrives, giving us one of the best reaction faces in a movie full of impressive reaction faces.
When you get your picture taken with the chipper, be sure to ask the staff for a Fargo-style hat. They keep a few on hand to complete the shot.