When Alabama fan “Al from Dadeville” applied a fatal dose of herbicide to the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner, where Auburn fans traditionally congregate for celebrations, speculation started about how the rivalry between Auburn and Alabama might turn even more bitter.
Harvey Almorn Updyke‘s family received threats, and Alabama fans so feared a revenge attack to their own campus that police security started to keep an eye on the statues near Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.
But some Alabama fans who seem to feel genuine remorse for one of their own maliciously attacking their rival’s sacred ground, started raising money to save or replace the trees at Toomer’s Corner. The most popular of the groups, Tide for Toomer’s has already raised $27,000 to help save or replace the trees.
Part of the long message on the information section of the group’s Facebook page states:
The Alabama-Auburn rivalry is the best in all of sports. It makes the fall more interesting and enjoyable. We like taunting you, you enjoy poking fun at us, and even when it gets heated, we wouldn’t have it any other way. What we don’t like is when good-natured rivalry is taken too far. That’s exactly what happened when “Al from Dadeville” maliciously vandalized the 135-year-old oaks at Toomer’s Corner.
Reaction to the donations has been mixed, with fans expressing anything from annoyance that so much money be spent on trees, to anger that Alabama fans are simply doing this to try to clear their names.
One fan on a message board for tigerdroppings.com said, “I think this is the equivalent to people who go to church because they are scared the devil will get them.” Another said, “To me, that’s equally as disturbing as the Auburn fans who plan to attend the “vigil” tomorrow night. Send your money somewhere else. … This whole thing is flat out bizarre.”
And this situation has been bizarre from the start.
The incident itself was odd. Then strange rumors surfaced about the life of Updyke, who may or may not be a retired state trooper and who may or may not have children named “Bear” and “Crimson.” Add in Auburn fans holding vigil at Toomer’s Corner and security surrounding statues on Bama’s campus, and you’ve got one of the weirdest situations in college sports history.
Only time will tell how the incident will affect the rivalry, and whether the money raised by Tide for Toomer’s will quell any added bitterness, but no matter where this story goes, it will surely resurface before next season’s Iron Bowl.