For decades, whenever my alma mater has a significant victory to celebrate, hundreds, even thousands converge on a small intersection in downtown Auburn, Alabama. Called Toomer’s Corner for Toomer’s Drug Store that sells the best lemonade on the planet, and has done so for generations, the oak trees that grace this little crossroads are soon dripping with toilet paper.
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Yes, when we have something to celebrate at Auburn we roll our own trees. Weird? Maybe. Wonderful? Absolutely.
Most memorably for me, I took part in this celebration when Bo Jackson won the Heisman in 1985. I wasn’t there to take part when Auburn won the National Championship in January. So Petunia and I did the next best thing—we rolled our Christmas tree in celebration.
Why am I writing about this when football season is over? Because someone took a sports rivalry a little too far and poisoned the 130 year old oak trees at Toomer’s Corner. They were hit with such a high dose of Spike 80DF, an herbicide which is regulated by the EPA, that the trees’ deaths are almost a certainty. If they don’t die, they’re expected to become so disfigured that they’ll have to be removed.
The trees aren’t showing any signs yet, so how do we know? A man called into a sports talk show in Alabama, bragging about what he’d done, and signed off by saying “Roll Damn Tide!” (Tests of the soil have verified his claim.) Perhaps even more disheartening is seeing how many people have “liked” the article online titled “Auburn's historic Toomer's Corner oaks poisoned with herbicide, likely to die”—12,000 and counting. To see if the number has gone any higher, go to http://blog.al.com/live/2011/02/auburn_toomers_corner_oaks_poisoned.html .
Not everyone is a college football fan and may not get why this matters. But traditions do matter. They bind us together and unite people across space and time. Auburn will find a way to continue our unusual, but proud, tradition. Whereas the man who did this will likely end up spending a lot of time alone, in a very confined space. He gave his first name and hometown when he called into the talk show, and I could make a joke here about our rivals, but I’m going to be charitable to the school he "supports,” and assume he doesn’t have a college degree from there, or anywhere.
Which is sad for him really on a lot of levels. Just think of the cool traditions he’s missed out on. Don’t even get me started on “The Flush.”