When Auburn University announced on Feb. 1 that Toomer's Oaks will be rolled one last time following Auburn's spring game on Apr. 20, it became the latest and deepest cut in the mournful recent history of the iconic oak trees.
There is no confirmation how long the Toomer's Oaks have called the intersection of College St. and Magnolia Ave. in Auburn home. Jeremy Henderson of The War Eagle Reader claims that the trees have been at the corner since at least 1937.
The intersection and the oaks serve as the point where the loveliest village on the Plains meets the Auburn University campus.
We all know the story, and it does not need to be recapped because doing so will give the person who (allegedly) poisoned the trees more recognition than he deserves.
These words are meant to serve as more of a thank you and a farewell to an old friend than they are to relive the last two years.
Unlike many Auburn fans, I don't have a long and developed relationship with these two trees. Being a first-generation Auburn alumni and follower, I did not have the opportunity to know the trees as a youngster.
You know the ones, wearing a No. 34 or No. 2 jersey, basking in the fun of toilet paper draping down into their faces.
But my limited relationship does not make them any less special to me or any other Auburn fan.
Like many outsiders, I did not understand the significance of a couple trees at an intersection in a small college town.
I quickly learned why they are so significant.
For much of the last century, these trees stood as a symbol for the Auburn family. Because, like the family, the trees always stood strong through the storms.
It is a near certainty that fans of Auburn's rival institutions will read this and think to themselves or even comment on this article and say, "They are just trees." While it is an uninformed and irrational comment, they have the right to believe that.
In their physical state, yes, they are just nearly one hundred-year-old oak trees.
But they aren't just trees.
They are Auburn. A staple. An institution. They are home.
On Jan. 10, 2011, I sat in seat 6, row 60 of section 141 in University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Az.
When I watched Wes Byrum's kick go sailing through the uprights to seal Auburn's first national championship title in 57 years, the jumbotrons in the stadium quickly gave Auburn fans at the game a view of what was going on in Auburn.
The crowd poured out onto the streets from the various downtown bars and rolled Toomer's Oaks like they have never been rolled before. It lasted late into the Monday night.
A large part of me wanted to be there. In Auburn. At Toomer's Corner. Celebrating with the rest of the Auburn family.
The main root of anger for many Auburn fans is that future memories were snatched right out of their hands long before they were supposed to be.
I was supposed to be able to be that dad that taught my children what these trees meant to the Auburn family. Those future memories were taken not only from me but every other Auburn person.
At this corner, there were always happy times. People came to Toomer's Oaks for more than just to celebrate a big win. Couples got engaged. Spouses exchanged vows. Friends helped each other home as they stumbled beneath the trees after one too many drinks on Wednesday night.
Toomer's Oaks @toomersoaks
You can kill us. But you'll never kill what happens on this corner. #toomers #toomerscorner2/17/2011, 2:51:11 AM
The trees aren't only a football thing. They are an Auburn thing. Just like Spirit and Nova, the Auburn Creed, Aubie, Bodda Getta, Tiger Walk and "War Eagle."
They aren't just trees.
It was too easy to take the trees for granted. When walking by and seeing them majestically towering over the intersection, it was easy to think that nothing could bring the trees down.
Whatever the university decides to do at Toomer's corner (plans will be announced on Apr 20.), it will certainly be something special and unique to Auburn.
New memories will be made there and good times will be had.
It will never be what it once was, though.
The act and the pain cannot be undone. What is left is to say thank you.
So, thank you, Toomer's Oaks.
Thank you for being the place that all eyes turned to after a big win. Thank you for being a special place to go celebrate. Thank you for bringing smiles to the faces of the Auburn family. Thank you for being Auburn.
When Auburn wraps up its spring scrimmage on Apr. 20, Auburn fans will make the familiar march to the north and give college football's most famous oaks a farewell the only way it knows how.
With toilet paper. A lot of it.
Because they aren't just trees.
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