Poisoning Toomer's Live Oaks in Auburn Senseless but Requires Forgiveness

I was quite saddened yesterday when I found out  (who we now allegedly know as) Harvey Updyke from Dadeville (here on Facebook) had deliberately poisoned the Toomer's Oaks in Auburn with a Dow Agroscience called Spike 80 DF (PDF of what this chemical is and does) "in retaliation for a 1983 event when Auburn students rolled the trees to celebrate the death of Alabama coaching legend Paul “Bear” Bryant."

According to the Paul Finebaum show, (audio of caller is here) he had deliberately poisoned the Toomer's Live Oaks in Auburn some time prior to the January 27th phone call.  The OANews is now reporting on Updyke's arrest, but the reaction across the Internet from Facebook and Twitter has been almost incalculable (see 16,000+ Toomer's Tree Hug Saturday Ralley on Facebook for starters).

At the time I heard about this I couldn't think of a more senseless and baseless act of vandalism that could never be punished to the extent of the damaged caused, especially when you count the hundreds of thousands of Auburn fans that love the Toomer's Live Oaks.  But, once again we can see this is nothing new under the sun.  This very same thing happened to the University of Texas in Austin to their Treaty Oak in 1989.  While I can't say it's the same, it makes me wonder if we at Auburn were destined to repeat this history?

I have a special tree here on my property I sit under and read during the summer, and have blogged about over and over again.  If someone purposely had killed that tree it would have been quite upsetting.  But for Auburn fans, how do you process something like this, the killing of something so special, something that has such key symbolic significance to Auburn itself?  Auburn released a statement yesterday, where the president addressed this question.

We will take every step we can to save the Toomer's oaks, which have been the home of countless celebrations and a symbol of the Auburn spirit for generations of Auburn students, fans, alumni and the community," said University President Jay Gogue.

Gogue asked members of the Auburn Family to "continue to be 'All In' in upholding its reputation for class" and not allow anger to be expressed inappropriately or undeservedly.

"It is understandable to feel outrage in reaction to a malicious act of vandalism," Gogue said. "However, we should live up to the example we set in becoming national champions and the beliefs expressed in our Auburn Creed. Individuals act alone, not on behalf of anyone or any place, and all universities are vulnerable to and condemn such reprehensible acts.

I know some crazy fan somewhere is not going to take that to heart but the example, rooted in Auburn's Creed from 1945 says many great things about class and dignity of fellow people. Of course it doesn't directly address the issue of forgiveness, (mainly because this is a creed for a secular, publicly funded university, not a religious organization) which is really what is needed here. This could be a huge, long, drawn out, post on the sinful nature of man, how we go about showing forgiveness, and why someone would do such a thing, but in the end, we as Christians are called to love one another as Christ loved the church, and this includes Harvey Updyke of Dadeville.

That means forgiving, without malice in our hearts, knowing all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God, not just one man but all of us. We are now given the opportunity to show how a forgiving heart acts and reacts when hurt, even if Updyke is not remorseful or repentant himself.

I assume that now here in Auburn anyway, we can move away from the who done it aspect of the trees and focus more on the preservation or the Toomer's Oaks or what to do if and when they do die. Here are some photos below I took of the Toomer's Oaks as they sit today, bathed in bright February sunshine, on a gorgeous day in the south.

I will say that these are just trees. Very special trees When I went down to Toomer's Corner today it was a zoo. The perspective on what happened in some respect has been totally lost. These are beloved trees that symbolize much of what is great about Auburn, but if we could channel this money, effort, and energy into something productive it would be amazing. Just a thought.

Additional current information related to the post above.

A Few News Reports on the Topic

  1. Toomer's Corner tree poisoning a 'new low' in rivalry, national media say
  2. Toomer's Corner trees poisoning: Auburn working against odds to save 130-year-old live oaks
  3. Arrest made in Toomer's Corner poisoning
  4. Toomer's Corner trees poisoning: An arrest reported, a sports world appalled at vandalism
  5. Despite rivalry, many Bama fans sickened by news of Toomer's Corner poisoned trees
  6. Toomers Corner explodes in ecstacy with Auburn national championship win
  7. Toomer's Corner rolling celebrates victory (in photos)
  8. The complete Toomer's Corner files
  9. Man arrested for poisoning Toomer's Corner oaks
  10. Is This The Alleged Toomer’s Corner Tree Poisoner?
  11. Man arrested in poisoning of oaks at Toomer’s Corner