The Washington Times-Herald

November 10, 2012

Washington pair wins treemendous honor

Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — A Washington couple has the dubious distinction of having the weirdest tree in the county on their property.

Sue Harper submitted a photo of a tree, located along CR 150N on the property where she grew up, to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry after she read about a “weird tree” search they were conducting. The tree appears to have a face with a drooling mouth on its trunk.

“I thought ‘that tree is so weird it’s gotta win,’” Sue said. “Then I didn’t hear anything. About a year later I got a letter.”

She and her husband, Larry, a broker associate with Midwest Realty, said they began noticing the tree’s features about three years ago. She entered the contest last year and just learned this year it had won.

“The contest doesn’t come up again until 2016, so it’ll hold the honor four years,” Sue said.

The honor is all the Harpers won for their unusual tree. In a congratulatory letter from IDNR, Education Director and Aficionado of Weird Trees Sam Carman wrote: “While having your photo selected doesn’t come with any prizes, awards or ticker tape parades (unless your community wants to organize one for you), it does mean that your photo appears in our online publication, “Invasion of the Weird Trees 2012.”

The online booklet, which can be viewed at, includes a weird tree from all but four of Indiana’s 92 counties. At the end of the booklet, there are explanations for some of the anomalies seen on the trees.

According to District Forester Brad Rody, cankers can cause indentations that make trees appear to have eyes. Susan explained that utility lines went through the “drool tree’s” branches, so the utility company has cut off some branches, making it plausible that a fungus has taken hold at the cut sites and eroded the wood.

“I think this is a sugar maple, and the drool part is from sap,” Sue said, adding that where the tree is located on CR 150N used to be part of Sugarland Road.

IDNR’s online booklet briefly talks about the benefits of trees, and trees in general, mentioning the beauty, comfort and products they provide. But as Sue talks about her drool tree, it’s obvious trees also provide memories.

As kids, she said, she and her siblings, Peggy (Eck) Shake, Dan Eck and Orlan Eck, climbed the tree, as did their children. The Harpers are the parents of Clarissa Heck, who now lives in Carmel, and Dr. Leighton Harper, now of Terre Haute.

“Our kids all recognize it when they see a picture,” Sue said. “They think (winning the contest) is really great. They’re really impressed that the tree they used to climb and play around won.”

One memory Sue has of the drool tree is when her parents, Leonard and Inez Eck, hired Amish crews to build corn cribs, and they took their lunch break under the tree. She remembers the men sitting under the tree, having Pepsi and Hamburger Jim’s fish sandwiches in its shade.

“I played paper dolls out there under the tree,” Sue recalled. “It was part of our life, everything we did. Back then we didn’t have air conditioning, so we found a nice, big shade tree to play under.”

Now the drool tree serves as a photo subject and backdrop. The Harpers are retired teachers, and Sue has shared her weird tree honor with members of Delta Kappa Gamma, a teachers’ sorority, as well as with the garden club. She said everyone thought it was neat, and now people are stopping to take pictures of it or of themselves in front of it.