Dead trees and dying hopes

The Toomer's corner tree, as I saw it on Jan. 3, 2011.
The Toomer’s corner tree, as I saw it on Jan. 3, 2011.

It’s been two years to the day since I saw Auburn University for the first time, during a basketball trip to watch Florida State take on the Tigers.

Like my buddies, I had a list of things I wanted to do while I was there — grab nachos at Momma Goldberg’s Deli, see Jordan-Hare Stadium and walk the campus.

And, of course, see Toomer’s Corner and those two beautiful oaks.

Over to the right, you can see the version of the trees I saw that day (there’s another image on the homepage). Big, strong and full of leaves as they towered over Toomer’s Corner. Little did I know that those trees would be, or already had been, poisoned by a deranged fan of rival Alabama.

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You all know the story — a dude named Harvey Updyke goes crazy after Auburn beats Alabama and decides the way to get revenge is by poisoning their two iconic oaks where the fans convene after every Tigers victory. So when I returned to Auburn on Wednesday night for my first trip since 2011, I was anxious to see what kind of shape the trees were in, two years after being poisoned.

Here is how they look now:

Toomer's Corner Tree after Poisoning

I’m no expert, but I pronounced that tree dead as I stood at the corner of College and Magnolia. And it made me a little sad to see something that was a part of so many lives standing in such a frail and tragic state. Its charred remains clearly haven’t recovered since catching fire in mid-November 2012, either.

You almost have to wonder to yourself what purpose they serve on that street corner. If something was poisoned and burned at Florida State, I would be in favor of getting rid of it altogether. At the same time, I get why the Auburn faithful wants to keep those trees standing as long as they’ll stand on their own (and maybe even longer than that).

As I walked away from the trees on Wednesday night, I assumed it would be the last time I’d ever see the Toomer’s Corner oaks standing beside that street. I wonder how many Auburn fans have to come to grips with that reality every time they make that same drive away from campus.

I went to see a basketball game, and an emotional moment with nature broke out. Go figure.

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