As I stood in Bodega (now known as the Bank Vault), a bar on the other corner of College Street and Magnolia Avenue, looking out at thousands of Auburn men and women knee deep in toilet paper, streets covered with white to the point you couldn't tell the street from the sidewalk, I cried. No one saw me cry, it was a few brief tears. I fought them off all day, even fought them off during the ceremony, but when I stood there by myself, staring at the trees, unrecognizable from what they once were, I cried. They were tears of sadness, but they were also tears brought on by being so damn proud to be an Auburn man.
I've never seen a celebration even come close to what happened at the corner of College and Magnolia on Saturday afternoon. People tend to mock the term "Auburn Family," but Saturday showed exactly why Auburn is more than just a university. It's more than just a sports team. Auburn is a family. Auburn is a family filled with Auburn men and women from all walks of life, from all over the world. And well over 100,000 of those men and women found there way to the Loveliest Village on the Plains Saturday, and at some point, said goodbye to the Toomer's Oaks in their own special ways.
I saw people just staring, I saw an old man, his Auburn alumni pin on his orange and blue checkered shirt, shed tears, standing by himself, just crying. I then saw this same old man throwing toilet paper over the trees with what looked to be his granddaughter. His granddaughter will likely never get to roll Toomer's with her grandfather again, but she got to Saturday, and it will be something she remembers for the rest of her life.
As I stood there with these tears rolling down my face, I didn't bother to wipe them off. I recalled every Toomers moment I've ever had, and Harvey Updyke can never take that away from me. No fool who takes losing a football game to such an extreme to kill something near and dear to so many people can take that away from me. Harvey Updyke brought the Auburn family closer than I've ever seen it. There were more than 83,000 people at the A-Day game, blowing away any attendance record that Auburn ever had for a spring game. You lose, Harvey Updyke. Killing trees is one thing; killing the Auburn spirit is impossible.
After I was done crying, staring out of the Bodega window, I grabbed my roll of toilet paper, and fought through the masses of people to get to the trees. I told myself I was only going to throw one roll and walk away, but after I threw my roll, another one rolled to my feet. I couldn't resist. I threw that roll and then found myself running around like the kids around me chasing more rolls to throw. I couldn't resist. So after I threw seven or eight more rolls, I walked away, back to Bodega. I cried. Again. This was even more brief than the first, only a couple tears, in the short walk from the trees back to the bar, but I cried.
I then passed time with friends and drinks, for a brief moment forgetting about those trees, but when it was time to leave, we had to go out to the trees one more time. We couldn't resist. This time, I didn't cry. I turned into the 10-year-old me all over again. I was climbing to the top of the eagle statues, making snow angels in the toilet paper on the ground, not caring how dirty the it was. I picked up arm fulls of toilet paper and threw them at my friends -- more than once. Here I was, 23 years old, acting like a 10-year-old, loving and cherishing every moment.
As we were leaving, I had to throw one last roll, and it had to be a good one. Anyone who has rolled Toomers Corner before knows exactly what I'm talking about. Get a full roll, unroll it just enough to get it started, pick out branch, and throw it, rolling off your fingertips like a football would when throwing that perfect spiral, going over the branch, toilet paper catching on one side then rolling empty on the other side. I found a roll, took my aim and threw my final roll. It was perfect. I walked away. I didn't cry; I smiled.
You lose, Harvey.
War Damn Eagle forever.