In what could be a case of taking a school rivalry way too far, some one has maliciously poisoned the oak trees at Auburn University’s historic Toomer’s Corner.
Police arrested suspect Harvey Almorn Updyke, 62, of Dadeville, Ala., and charged him with Criminal Mischief for applying a lethal dose of herbicide to the trees, which host one of most unique traditions in American college sports—after Auburn Tigers victories, fans gather at Toomer’s Corner to roll the trees with toilet paper.
Investigators began looking into the situation after a man who went by “Al from Dadeville” called the Paul Finebaum Radio Network and claimed he poisoned the trees the week after last year’s Iron Bowl, the annual game against Alabama, because he said he saw a newspaper clipping from 1983 showing Auburn fans rolling Toomer’s Corner the day legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant died.
If there were any doubt’s about intentions, the radio caller said he said he used Spike 80DF and the trees “definitely will die.” He then signed off with “Roll Damn Tide.”
So, it appears the perpetrator took revenge 27 years late in a completely unwarranted fashion. Killing oak trees that are more than a century old is a little more harmful than, say, painting Tommy Trojan blue. You can’t exactly just throw on some paint remover to fix this situation.
Despite efforts from the school to save the 130-year-old trees, it appears they will, indeed, die. Consequences of the herbicide might even be worse than originally expected.
“We are assessing the extent of the damage and proceeding as if we have a chance to save the trees,” said Gary Keever, an Auburn University professor of horticulture and a member of Auburn’s Tree Preservation Committee. “We are also focused on protecting the other trees and shrubs in Samford Park. At this level the impact could be much greater than just the oaks on the corner, as Spike moves through the soil to a wide area.”
There have been countless ill-conceived pranks pulled against rivals throughout the years, but Harvey Almorn Updyke’s may go down as the most needlessly malicious.