Farmers and artists: Strange bedfellows?

August 27, 2022 9:00 am

Scott Eickman, a farmer and artist from Manning, Iowa, shows one of his works. (Photo by Annie Chapman Brewer)

Iowa Writers 'Collaborative. Linking Iowa readers and writers.Farmers and artists?  Many think that these two are strange bedfellows. But Midwestern winters are long and farmers are creative. And handy. They often find themselves in the barn or garage after chores are done, tinkering with the objects that surround them. The farmer may be the man (or woman) who feeds our bodies with meat, grain, and vegetables, but the farmer may also be the person who feeds our imaginations with artwork­­ — creations that allow us to take a metaphorical leap into heart-felt emotion.

My crew and I found such a farmer-artist in the most recent episode (#35) of the AgArts from Horse & Buggy Land podcast. We were on the road in Manning, Iowa, in Carroll County, interviewing Scott Eickman.

Eickman makes junk sculpture.  He works at his family farm operation during the day. He gives therapeutic massages in a clinic in town, then retires to his garage studio at night, welding together nuts, bolts, combine chains and other implement parts into sculptures that have drawn 40,000 admirers on Tik Tok.

A veteran, Eickman traveled the world in the Marine Corps, deploying to both Iraq and Afghanistan where he became interested in healing modalities — both body work and the work of healing the soul through art.

We visited Eickman’s home just off Iowa Highway 141, winding down through his backyard to his garage. There, we saw his sculpture of a Marine carrying his buddy out of combat, made with thousands of old military dog tags. The massive piece is taller than Eickman himself, nearly brushing the garage ceiling.

Eickman dedicated his Covid-19 lockdown time to working on the sculpture. But it isn’t the size of the piece that creates its power.  It’s the emotion that comes through its welded parts. It’s the compassion that shines through the patriotism — one man carrying the wounded body of a friend through enemy fire.

Detail of Scott Eickman sculpture. (Photo by Amy Chapman Brewer)

Scott Eickman:

My sculpture shows a soldier carrying his buddy who has lost a leg in combat. The guy on top is completely covered in dog tags. The dog tags have the names of all of the fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. It’s to give the effect of carrying the weight of the fallen with you throughout your entire life, whether it be from combat, or after combat like the guys dealing with PTSD right now. Some of them aren’t able to handle the loss of their brothers and sisters, and they’re trying to get through that. Some soldiers are constantly carrying — I don’t want to say the weight of the world —because it’s a common phrase, but it pretty much is, the weight of the world on them. So that’s the main effect of the sculpture. The reason I have them in motion: No matter what, you have to keep pushing forward. No matter what, when you’re in a mission or anything like that, if your guy goes down, you just keep going.

Detail of sculpture by Scott Eickman. (Photo by Annie Chapman Brewer)

To keep going and hear the whole interview with Scott Eickman, tune into the AgArts from Horse & Buggy Land podcast wherever you get your podcasts or on our website:

On the home page of our website, you’ll also find a slide show of beautiful photos by Annie Chapman Brewer of Eickman and his amazing sculpture. Music by Robert Stone of Omaha, NE., originally from Carroll.

Editor’s note: This is the second column we’ve republished from Mary Swanders’ Buggy Land, through the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative. Her first column is here. We hope you’ll subscribe to her blog and the collaborative to support their work. We especially want to congratulate Mary Swander, who will be inducted Aug. 27 into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.

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Mary Swander
Mary Swander

Mary Swander is a well-published author and playwright, the executive director of AgArts, and the host of the “AgArts from Horse & Buggy Land” podcast. Find her work at She is a member of the Iowa Writers' Collaborative. Subscribe to her blog, Mary Swander's Buggy Land, here.