INDIANAPOLIS — While painter Bob Ross often gets credit for creating “happy accidents,” Vierl Veal created one of his own more than 60 years ago.
“My parents are like, ‘there's four children in the house, and we need to get them out,’” Janet Veal-Drummond said.
The Veal house is nestled on a hill that would be ideal for sledding, but in the winter of 1961, there was no snow. So Veal took advantage of the cold temperatures and sprayed a fine mist of water onto the hill for his children to slide down.
Mother Nature had her own plan. A change in wind direction resulted in the mist soaking some honeysuckle bushes creating the family’s first ice tree.
WRTV journalists captured several iterations of the ice tree through the years including in 1984, when we sent photographer Vern Veal, the son of Vierl and Janet’s brother, to share the wonder firsthand.
Now in the hands of the family’s third generation, this year’s Veal’s Ice Tree began taking shape earlier last week.
“My husband and I built the frame Thursday night,” Wynter Veal-Drummond said. “We go around the property and trim trees that need trimming and then we put that around the two-by-fours to create a tee pee effect.”
Once the temperature hits 30 degrees, the water starts flowing. But it’s not from a spigot.
“It's a spring-fed pond,” Janet Veal-Drummond said. “We have people from California that write us and tell us, ‘Hey, there's a drought! Why are you using water to make an ice tree?’”
Getting an ice tree to grow requires work just like any other crop.
“I continuously move the hoses around every morning and then every night,” Wynter Veal-Drummond said. “Because the longer the hose stays in the same place, it kind of just gets slushy.”
Wynter Veal-Drummond then scales the ice adding more branches.
“We place those branches at the top of that ice and then we keep building it taller and taller.”
How tall? Well, a consistently cold winter in 2014 allowed the Veal family to set a record for the tallest ice tree around 85-feet.
“It started freezing in the first part of November and it stayed frozen until the end of March, so that's four good months that we had to build,” Janet Veal-Drummond said.
But the winters lately haven’t been as cold or as long.
“I usually turn the hoses off when it hits about anything above 35 degrees,” Wynter Veal-Drummond said. “So probably Monday, I'll turn the hoses off because of the rain next week.”
So, if you’re planning on seeing the ice tree this year, time is running out.
“I probably won't rebuild it because I will be too exhausted,” Wynter Veal-Drummond said.
If you do plan on visiting Veal’s Ice Tree, here are some things you should know.
Drive slow. The Veal family says their street is not plowed and the packed snow can make driving tricky. The family also wants visitors to be aware of a sharp curve in the road.
Visitors can pull into the circular driveway, but they are asked to stay to the left side of the drive.
And while some may be tempted to approach the ice tree, the Veal family asks for people to refrain from doing so and stay on the pavement.
Veal’s Ice Tree is located at 6445 Mimosa Lane Indianapolis, IN 46259.
The family does not accept money, but it does ask patrons to consider donating to the Wheel Mission to help those struggling with the cold weather.