Thursday, February 17, 2011

17 FEB 11: Oak As In Choke

It's a rare day when an issue brings "environmentalist wackos" (to borrow from Rush Limbaugh) together with hard-core Southern sports fans. After all, people show up at the Aflac Outdoor Games to watch people saw through trees -- not plant new ones.

But Wednesday was one of those rare days -- as Auburn University announced the two old oak trees at Toomer's Corner seem unlikely to survive, because of chemical poisoning. Police consider it a deliberate act of vandalism. If the culprit simply had spray-painted an X on the trees, it might have been considered practice for the Veterans Parkway Streetscape.

Auburn officials say someone applied large amounts of a herbicide called Spike 80-DF to the two Toomer's trees. The university does NOT use that chemical -- since as we all know, you can't spike in college football.

But there's much more to this case, which makes it even more bizarre. The vandal apparently called Paul Finebaum's sports talk show in late January, and admitted on the air that he poisoned the trees. He implied it was retaliation for someone putting a Cam Newton jersey on the Bear Bryant statue in Tuscaloosa during Iron Bowl week. Oh dear - it's an Alabama variation on that cartoon of Muhammad.

The caller to Paul Finebaum's show identified himself as "Al from Dadeville," and claimed he lives 30 miles from Auburn. After checking a map, I wonder if he's really from the next town down the road -- as there's a large Jackson's Gap in his thinking.

(Instant Message to WLTZ news anchor Nathan O'Leary: The last name is pronounced FINE-baum. It does NOT rhyme with Cinnabon. You really should come visit the Columbus area sometime.)

For all his bragging, Al from Dadeville may have forgotten something when he showed up at Toomer's Corner with his herbicide. Two web-cams are pointed directly at it - one set up by the city of Auburn, the other by the university [6 Jan]. A review of video records could make Al a TV star, to go with his radio appearance.

Paul Finebaum says federal investigators are looking into the Toomer's Corner poisoning case. That could be due to concern about the herbicide causing environmental damage. But Auburn's Police Chief said Wednesday night there's NO concern about the herbicide entering the city water supply - since to my knowledge, downtown Auburn doesn't have micro-breweries.

Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson was about the only person NOT saying much about the poisoning case Wednesday night. He said detectives are investigating. He did not say whether they're wearing breathing masks.

Tommy Dawson urged Auburn fans NOT to retaliate for what happened at Toomer's Corner. A big test of that will come tonight, when the Auburn women's basketball team hosts Alabama. It's "All-Orange Night" - so keep the cans of Black Flag at home.

Some Auburn students reacted to the poisoning announcement Wednesday night the only way they knew how. They went to Toomer's Corner and rolled it. I suppose knocking dead leaves off the trees could be compared to chemotherapy....

An online movement also began for a "Toomer's Tree Hug" in Auburn this Saturday. Can't you see the students now -- forming rings around the oak trees, since the trees may not be able to make any more?

But I also read a few online comments suggesting Auburn had payback coming -- and not necessarily for winning the BCS Championship. One claimed college students rolled Toomer's Corner when Alabama football coach Bear Bryant died. Well, maybe they did - but did any dance on Bryant's grave like Nick Fairley after a tackle?

WXTX suggested Wednesday night was the last time Toomer's Corner will be rolled - but not so fast. A similar historic oak tree was poisoned in Texas years ago. But a concerted effort allowed part of it to survive today -- including big donations from Ross Perot. If ever there was a time for "YellaFella" Jimmy Rane to ride to the rescue, it's now.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION asks you what should be done with the person who poisoned the two Toomer's trees. Should that attacker be imprisoned for his actions? That happened after a man poisoned that oak tree in Texas. And it admittedly would be more humane than hanging the attacker from Toomer's tallest branch.

Despite Wednesday's stunning news, the Auburn men's basketball team bravely took the floor for Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm). The Tigers were mauled at Mississippi 90-59, incurring their worst loss of the season. If the team came home from that to see Toomer's Corner rolled, they might have concluded fellow students are the sick ones.

-> We played a new kind of online poker last weekend -- and liked it a lot. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: It's also a rare day when someone comments on the "endorsement" messages normally found near the top of each post....

Sir Richard:

If it's good enough for "Buster" it's A-OK with me! - R.J. Schweiger

That's the former Constable of Hurtsboro commenting on a current Russell County Assistant District Attorney. Who says this blog is against law and order?

Let's check the good, bad and ugly of other Wednesday news....

+ Muscogee County Sheriff's Officers arrested 18 suspects, after a crackdown on illegal drugs and prostitution in the Bibb City area. Hmmmm - we finally may have an explanation for the "Might As Well" sign on Second Avenue. Maybe it was set up by hookers, as a hint to men.

+ Rigdon Road Elementary School hosted a program to help high school students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Parents may have been encouraged to keep contributing to Georgia's official fund for free college education - otherwise known as the state lottery.

+ Fort Benning announced a recall of contaminated ground beef, sold at its commissary. The evening newscasts did NOT say whether this is connected to the stomach virus which spread through a basic training unit. But meals of ground turkey might inspire some soldiers to prepare for future mission in northern Iraq.

+ WRBL reported Columbus Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson is down to nine semifinalists for Parks and Recreation Director, from more than 250 applications. The mayor said a Parks Director's top objective should be to spend tax money for the benefit of everyone, as opposed to having "the best basketball team." Outside politics, she has a great future running the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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