Friday, February 18, 2011

Two of the Nation's Most Beloved Trees Poisoned

David Bundy/Montgomery Advertiser via AP
Have you heard this story?  Two of the most beloved trees in the country were poisoned because of a sports rivalry.  The 130 year-old live oaks that graced Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, Alabama mark the spot where Auburn University fans celebrate victories.  On January 27, a man identifying himself only as “Al from Dadeville” called a local sports talk radio show and said that a week after the Iron Bowl—the annual football game between Auburn and Alabama—he had driven to Auburn and poisoned the trees at Toomer’s Corner by injecting Spike 80DF, an herbicide that inhibits photosynthesis. 
“Is that against the law to . . . poison a tree?” asked the radio host. 
“You think I care?” replied the caller.
The next day, Auburn University officials took samples of the soil around the storied live oaks and confirmed that, indeed, the soil had been poisoned with nearly 65 times the amount of poison necessary to kill a tree.  “There is little chance to save the trees,” the University said. 
The caller, an Alabama fan, said he attended the Iron Bowl the day before.  He said he poisoned the trees because he thought Auburn fans had rolled the trees in toilet paper to celebrate the death of Alabama coaching legend Bear Bryant in 1983.  Turns out, this fact was not at all true.  On the day of Bryant’s death, rival Auburn flew flags at half mast to commemorate the event. 
This morning Auburn police arrested Harvey Almorn Updyke charging him with criminal mischief.  He is being held on $50,000 bond.
You can listen to the caller on the radio show here. 
I grew up an Auburn fan, and visit Toomer’s Corner every year when visiting my parents who live blocks away from these beloved trees.  There are no words .  . .


  1. This is as sad as reading Where the Red Fern Grows.

  2. Heart wrenching! I call that murder in the first degree.

  3. This is just heart-breaking. I can't help wondering what this says about the values of our culture: perhaps that we tend to see plants as objects we own rather than as living things that we share the planet with, and that at least some grown-ups (???) in our society think sports are more important than life itself. Sigh.

  4. Truly a horrible story and indicative of how skewed the priorities and values of some among us have become.

  5. Sounds familiar. Didn't someone poison the treaty Oak in Austin, Texas 10 or 12 years ago. The penalty doesn't equal the crime.

  6. That is really utterly vindictive and short-sighted.

  7. This is just horrifying to me! I am shocked. SHOCKED that someone would kill trees in retaliation for what they think other people do/did because of a sports rivalry. Destroying living, breathing, INNOCENT trees in the name of football. It's just unbelievable.


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