Today, I found out about the poisoning of the Toomer’s Corner trees, and if you haven’t heard about this story, let me break it down for you.
Toomer’s Corner is an intersection in the heart of Auburn, AL and after the Tigers win, it is tradition to roll the giant live oaks which hang over the street. Like the Grove here at Ole Miss, one does not simply visit Toomer’s Corner, one makes a pilgrimage to this hallowed ground of SEC football glory and history.
On January 27, a caller on the Paul Finebaum sports sho who identified himself only as ‘Al’ bragged he had poisoned the live oaks at Toomer’s Corner with Spike 80 DF herbicide. The call can be heard here on youtube.
Aurburn officials followed up on this claim, taking soil samples (which were tested at Mississippi State, small world!), and confirming that indeed, the trees were poisoned with a lethal dose of Spike 80DF. They do not have much hope for the trees’ survival.
Yesterday, police arrested Harvey Almorn Updike, a 62-year-old resident of Dadeville, AL and charged him with one count of first-degree criminal mischief. If convicted, he could face 10 months in prison. The full story with video is available here at ESPN.
One of the claims made by Updike in his call to Finebaum’s radio show was that on the day Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant died, Auburn students rolled Toomer’s Corner in celebration. The War Eagle Reader investigated these claims, going back into the microfiche from when the Bear died. In this article, they find no evidence of such an event, citing headlines from major Birmingham newspapers, and lack of outrage from ‘Bama fans in letters to the editor from the time. It appears that perhaps Updike’s bitterness may just be rooted in jealousy for the Tigers’ BCS National Championship, and not an ancient grudge as he purports.
A group of students have created a Facebook event called Toomer’s Tree Hug to show student and community support for the trees. The creators say they will be holding the hug a safe distance from the trees to comply with university recommendations that no one touch or roll the trees in their declining health.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, this is a story which embodies the multimedia world journalism is becoming. It started on the radio, then was covered online, on air, and in print, and has spread to the world of social media. Multimedia journalism is crucial to how information and activism operate today, so hug your computer, your newsstand, and a tree in support of Toomer’s Corner and the Auburn family.