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Auburn tradition sadly wiped away

Carol Sheehan grew up in Florida and has lived in Las Vegas since 1992. She attended Auburn University, she said, because she wanted to go to college up north, “someplace where it snowed.”

It doesn’t often snow in Auburn, Ala. But it did snow once or twice when Carol Sheehan was going to classes there.

When it did, people went to Toomer’s Corner, at the intersection of Magnolia Avenue and College Street, where the Auburn campus begins. They threw rolls of toilet paper at the twin oak trees at Toomer’s Corner that must have been there forever.

If you threw the toilet paper rolls just right, they would unfurl in midflight and drop over the limbs and branches. Soon a fluffy two-ply curtain of White Cloud or Quilted Northern or Charmin Ultra Soft — or Charmin Ultra Strong, because this is Auburn, where they grow ’em tough, where the big football game every year is called the Iron Bowl — would be cascading from those oak trees.

(I know the people of Auburn thought of it first, but this also would have made for grand tradition — and a necessity is the mother of invention thing — at Cincinnati, a city known for its five-way chili consisting of chili con carne, spaghetti, cheese, onions and beans.)

To the 33 percent of the football team and other undergraduates who attend classes at Auburn, and to the people who live there, “Rolling Toomer’s” is a wonderful tradition, one that has developed over time, over years, over generations. Over lots of victories against Ole Miss. Over maybe one or two at Bear Bryant’s expense.

Developed on its own. Like when the swallows return to Capistrano, if the swallows wore shoulder pads and used to run the wishbone.

It wasn’t like somebody in the Auburn marketing department said, “See that big rock over there? Well, before football games, why don’t we have the players march down to it, and we’ll have them rub it for good luck or something, and we’ll have ESPN film it. And then whoever replaced Erin Andrews can talk about it during halftime because nobody watches the marching bands anymore.”*

(*Except at Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T and Bethune-Cookman and the other historically black colleges and universities.)

Asking an Auburn man or woman about the first time he or she rolled Toomer’s is like asking a Chicago baseball fan where he was when the Cubs last won the World — er, where he was when that Bartman guy interfered with Moises Alou during the 2003 playoffs.

Carol Sheehan went to Auburn around the same time Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley went to Auburn. So she could have majored in rolling Toomer’s Corner, if Auburn offered a degree in that.

“I had three roommates, and this one night the football team had won a big (away) game, and we were sitting around in pajamas, with our slippers on, and we piled in the car to go down to Toomer’s Corner,” she remembers in the way an Auburn fan remembers Barkley’s tighty-whitey basketball trunks.

Before she married Jack Sheehan, a Las Vegas-based writer and golfing enthusiast, Carol dated Freddy Weygand, an Auburn wide receiver with a square jaw who had been Mr. Football in high school down there.

So she and her roommates went down to roll the trees in their PJs and slippers. And by the time they arrived at Magnolia and College, the twin oaks already were covered in Quilted Northern and Charmin Ultra Strong (and the cheap kind of toilet tissue you got at Piggly Wiggly) because a hundred or more Tigers fans had beaten them to it.

Later, when she worked for the Auburn alumni association, Sheehan help organize a march to Toomer’s called Tiger Storm. She has two brothers who fought in Desert Storm.

Toilet paper was flung at oak trees. Troops were honored in the fine Auburn tradition.

Carol Sheehan continues to honor troops by making handcrafted jewelry with a military theme available through her website (lilycarol.com). Fred Couples has commissioned her to make necklaces and bracelets for the wives of the Presidents Cup golfers, and for first lady Michelle Obama, wife of the honorary captain.

But the next time Auburn students and townspeople march on Toomer’s Corner to honor the troops, or honor the football team, should it ever beat Alabama, they will find only three poles and cables at which to fling their Quilted Northern and Charmin Ultra Strong, because some jackass poisoned the twin oaks after Cam Newton led Auburn to victory over Alabama in the 2010 Iron Bowl.

The deified trees died a slow death. Workers from the Asplundh Tree Expert Company sawed down and removed them on Tuesday.

The story in the Opelika-Auburn News said the crew worked carefully.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski

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