AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Auburn fans are keeping a cherished
tradition alive -- at least for now.
Hundreds streamed to Toomer's Corner following the 23rd-ranked
Tigers' 42-38, comeback win over Utah State on Saturday. They
celebrated like always by heaving toilet paper into the branches of
the two poisoned, clearly ailing oak trees at the intersection of
campus and downtown.
"The trees represent so much more than a tradition," said 23-year-old Emily Curry, an Auburn graduate who lives in Atlanta."It's the Auburn family and the bond that we have.
"It makes me really sad that this might be the last time I get
a chance to roll these," Curry said.
Alabama fan Harvey Updyke Jr., 62, was indicted on charges including criminal mischief and desecration of a venerated object.
Updyke, who has children named Bear and Crimson Tyde, pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
With leaves mottled brown and yellow, the now frail-looking trees are getting special treatment from a university, town and fan base in hopes that they'll pull through. They're still a big part of Auburn celebrations, though.
A barricade protected the trees along with signs asking fans to
keep off the soil. Auburn horticulturist Gary Keever said a crew would pick off the toilet paper by hand Sunday morning in an effort to avoid further damage instead of using water hoses like in the past.
Police officers were stationed nearby Saturday. A task force decided to let the tradition roll on.
"We agreed that taking these precautions, it's not likely that rolling or removal should do any significant damage to the trees," Keever said.
And so the postgame party was on. Fans even rolled the magnolias
in front of neighboring Samford Hall. But the oaks are the symbol.
"I know that other people from the outside looking in would say, 'Oh it's just trees,"' said Curry's friend, Lindsey Kallaher, 22, of Auburn. "But when you go here and you see your football team on the field and your eagle fly around the stadium, you get chills."
Rick Long and his wife, Carol, paused at the entrance to campus
where the oaks stand to survey the scene.
"I would say leave them alone until we know they're healed," said Rick, 63, of Atlanta, whose daughter, daughter-in-law and son-in-law attended Auburn.
The trees' precarious health was evident by their appearance.
"They don't look good. They really don't," said Dr. Scott Eneback, an Auburn forestry and wildlife sciences professor. "The branches are still producing leaves, so as long as the branches are producing leaves, that means they're hanging on and still alive.
"They don't look good, but I'm optimistic. They're tough trees."