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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 02/17/2011

Arrest made in poisoning of Auburn trees as efforts to save them continue

By Cindy Boren

As an uphill battle to save the 130-year-old oak trees at Toomer's Corner in Auburn, Ala., continues, a man has been arrested and charged with poisoning the iconic foliage that marks a traditional gathering spot for Auburn celebrations.

Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr. was charged with one count of first-degree criminal mischief and, if convicted, could face one to 10 years in prison. He is accused of pouring a lethal dose of an herbicide into the soil around the trees.

"There's no reason for something like this to happen," Gary Keever, an Auburn horticulture professor who's working to save the oaks, told al.com. "It's not looking good, but we're doing what we can to give the trees a fighting chance."

The trees are fragile to begin with and being party magnets doesn't help. According to al.com., they are well north of their usual range, they're on a busy street corner, and they're regularly covered in toilet paper (after the game against Georgia, someone set fire to the tp). "We stress them even more when we light them on fire and vehicles run into them," Keever said. "We use fire hoses to blow the toilet paper off them and that blows off a lot of buds."


The poisoning was discovered last month, after a University of Alabama fan who identified himself as "Al in Dadeville" called a syndicated radio show and said he had poured on the poison after the Nov. 26 Iron Bowl, won by Auburn.

"It was kind of hard to take it seriously, and then as he went on it started sounding more serious," Paul Finebaum, host of the program, said. "And now that we've played it back, there's no doubt that he was absolutely serious."

It's taken the rivalry to a new low and drawn a response from Alabama Athletic Director Mal Moore. "It's an awful act, a terrible thing to do," Moore said in a statement. "A lot of what makes our two programs so special is our many unique traditions. So, hearing this about Toomer's Corner is upsetting to me in several ways. I certainly hope that whomever is responsible is held accountable."

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By Cindy Boren  | February 17, 2011; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  College football  
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Comments

I'm a forester so I'm a little bias. I'm upset of the stupid and idiotic behavior of sports fans after teams lose and/or win a game. It's a game. Its not life. There is no such thing as an important football game.
Mr. Updyke didn't take a life and if proven guilty that he did it, doesn't need to serve hard time. But he did take something an historic and cultural icon away from Auburn and should do hundreds of hours of community service. Start by having him plant trees on the auburn campus and then let him spend the next five years cleaning up after
Alabama football games wearing an Auburn jersey.

Posted by: guitarhack | February 17, 2011 2:08 PM | Report abuse

What a d.ck!

Posted by: ProfessorPeabody | February 17, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

The Unemployed Red-Neck strikes again!

Posted by: TerryWatts1000 | February 17, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"Toomer's Corner"???? Trees. Toilet Paper?


Totally explains Robert Gibbs.

And, BTW, where was he in all this?

And, what does he know?

Posted by: fdfdfer234534 | February 17, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, a judge should require Updyke to replant every tree that is lost and let Cam Newton, or whoever the new QB is, drill him in the balls with a football before the national anthem at every homegame this year...

Posted by: ozpunk | February 17, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

The Unemployed Red-Neck strikes again!

Posted by: TerryWatts1000

Bill Clinton?

Posted by: LibFreeWorld | February 17, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Roll Tide!!!!

War Damn Eagle!!!!

Honk if you sacked Brody!!!

College football is kind of important in the South, just like sitting around Starbucks and reading the NYT is important in the North. Most of ya'll just don't understand, which is fine.

This dude is an idiot, but no more so than hundreds of other football fans who take the game just a bit too seriously and do stupid things each Saturday in the Fall.

Look on the bright side, perhaps the trees will die and will be removed and it will all help stem the tide (no pun intended) of toilet-paper genocide that occurs each time Auburn wins.

Posted by: lingering_lead | February 17, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Football is religion here in the south having moved here(from DC)almost 5 years ago i was surprised at the depth of the football fanatics in ths SEC and i consider myself a hardcore sport's fan. I ain't even close to the people here they actually laugh at me when i mention Maryland or Navy football. This jackazz needs to go straight to jail he knew what he was doing.

Posted by: dargregmag | February 17, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

This is beyond tragic and heartbreaking. The loss of such venerable trees is so unnecessary, and the redneck loser who did this deserves to be strung up with a rope attached to one of those dying oaks. The loss of any old tree is as tragic as a human death at the hands of a thug. I hope this guy meets a lousy end in jail or outside.

Posted by: joanharlin | February 17, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

This is beyond tragic and heartbreaking. The loss of such venerable trees is so unnecessary, and the redneck loser who did this deserves to be strung up with a rope attached to one of those dying oaks. The loss of any old tree is as tragic as a human death at the hands of a thug. I hope this guy meets a lousy end in jail or outside.

Posted by: joanharlin | February 17, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

------------------------------

You're joking, right? You liken "the loss of any old tree" to "a human death at the hands of a thug."

When a 200+ year-old white oak tree came crashing down on my home at 3:32 pm on August 5, 2010 and rendered my family homeless for three months, do you mourn the loss of the tree as much as the loss of the 9 year-old girl in Arizona killed by that psycho Jared Loughner last month?

Honestly, your post was sickening because I really think you believe what you wrote. Have a little perspective. Trees can and have been replanted. Little 9 year-old girls with bullet holes in their brains are gone from their families forever.

Posted by: lingering_lead | February 17, 2011 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Someone needs to address the growing hostility of the rivalry between such two schools as Alabama and Auburn that would result in such an idiotic act. Some antics are fun (think the goat stealing in the Army Navy game), but this borders on lunacy. We must feel sorry for the man and well as the Alabama fans he purports to represent (did he think they would applaud his efforts?). He must have little life if he holds a grudge from a football game played back in1982. Does anyone remember what happened then or even the score???

Posted by: sowo | February 17, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

You are right, it was a mistake to write that, and of course, a human life is different. However, replanting a tree does not replace one that took over 100 yrs to mature.

Posted by: joanharlin | February 17, 2011 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Someone needs to address the growing hostility of the rivalry between such two schools as Alabama and Auburn that would result in such an idiotic act. Some antics are fun (think the goat stealing in the Army Navy game), but this borders on lunacy. We must feel sorry for the man and well as the Alabama fans he purports to represent (did he think they would applaud his efforts?). He must have little life if he holds a grudge from a football game played back in1982. Does anyone remember what happened then or even the score???

Posted by: sowo | February 17, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

----------------

Sowo, the 1982 Iron Bowl is a bad example. It was Bear Bryant's last Iron Bowl game. It was Alabama's only loss of the year and it prevented them from winning the National Championship. But it will always be remembered for the play that a freshman named Bo Jackson made when he "went over the top" of Bama's D to score a touchdown and help the Auburn Tigers win by 3 points. So yes, there are many who do remember what happened in a 1982 football game.

Like I said earlier, most of the folks who post here will just not get it. That's OK.

Posted by: lingering_lead | February 17, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, the trees are toast. Take them down and save all of the wood. Then, design a National Championship memento crafted from the wood of the Toomer oaks. Sentence the clown who poisoned the trees to manufacturing the mementos during his prison time. Every living Auburn alum would buy a few.

The school will make a fortune and this idiot will get to stare at the words Auburn National Champions 8 hours a day for the next 10 years.

And to the earlier poster: Maryland has a football team?

Posted by: ADNova | February 17, 2011 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, the trees are toast. Take them down and save all of the wood. Then, design a National Championship memento crafted from the wood of the Toomer oaks. Sentence the clown who poisoned the trees to manufacturing the mementos during his prison time. Every living Auburn alum would buy a few.

The school will make a fortune and this idiot will get to stare at the words Auburn National Champions 8 hours a day for the next 10 years.

And to the earlier poster: Maryland has a football team?

Posted by: ADNova | February 17, 2011 7:50 PM
______________________________________________________________

Snapping Terps ! We play in the ACC and when I was there... we had greats like Boomer and Frank and regularly visited the Top 10 while Auburn slummed. Byrd stadium may be old and small but it serves to remind that Football is not the primary mission of a University.

Posted by: 5inchtaint | February 17, 2011 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I don't buy all this contrition. I spent 2 long years in Tloosa getting a masters and was constantly berated for being from Auburn. My car was vandalized repeatedly, my aparment trashed and I was subject to crude remarks from even the faculty. There are dozends of FB making this guy your new hero and tshirts for sale honoring him. He saw all the hate you people spout as a way to become important and it worked. So trying to distance yourselves isn't a viable option.

Posted by: Weaglette | February 18, 2011 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, I don't buy all this contrition. I spent 2 long years in Tloosa getting a masters and was constantly berated for being from Auburn. My car was vandalized repeatedly, my aparment trashed and I was subject to crude remarks from even the faculty. There are dozends of FB making this guy your new hero and tshirts for sale honoring him. He saw all the hate you people spout as a way to become important and it worked. So trying to distance yourselves isn't a viable option.

Posted by: Weaglette | February 18, 2011 9:52 AM | Report abuse

--------------------

What contrition? It was a couple of darn trees. Stupid? Yes. Criminal? Maybe.

T-Town can be a pretty rough place.

Posted by: lingering_lead | February 18, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

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