Pat Dye and I became good friends shortly after he came to Auburn University as head football coach in 1981. That friendship has continued over the years. Pat was a great coach and his record is the best evidence of that assessment. Even with all of his success and honors, Pat is reluctant to discuss the sport which consumed most of his life. He will if you insist and he can certainly entertain you with his stories. But anybody who asks him about football today will likely find the subject turned quickly to Pat’s 740-acre farm located near Notasulga, Ala. Retired since 1992, Pat’s days are now spent cultivating the 42 varieties of Japanese Maples he sells retail and wholesale in addition to his hunting business. Talk of his nursery will consume any conversation you have with the man who was one of the greats in the tough business of college football.
My wife Sara and several of her friends made the trip to Pat’s farm recently and they got quite an education about the operations on the farm. Pat told the group that he is fascinated by Japanese Maples because of the many different varieties. He said each one has its own unique personality and the older they get, “the more character they develop.” You may be thinking this surely doesn’t sound like the man who was a great football player and later a highly successful college coach, but it really is. Pat’s philosophy on tree management is simple, reflecting once again the essence of his coaching mentality. He said recently:
If an acorn falls and lands under the parent tree, it’s always going to be dependent on the parent for nutrients and sun. But if an acorn lands away from the parent tree, its roots grow deeper in search of water during dry times so that when a natural disaster occurs, the tree is ready with strong roots. It’s kind of like children. Both will grow, but one will never reach its full potential and will become fragmented when faced with challenges.
There is another aspect of Pat’s life that should be of interest. His place is a great location for events of all sorts. His Crooked Oaks and Auburn Oaks guest lodges host quail, deer and turkey hunting parties of up to 20. Crooked Oaks, which houses the majority of Pat’s football memorabilia, is also available for weddings, corporate retreats and special events. For information regarding the lodges, contact Chico Canady at 334.525.1593. Pat’s Japanese Maple trees are available both wholesale and retail. Prices start around $10 and go up to $2,500 for a fully developed specimen. If you would like more information, contact Casey Teel at (334) 313-6921.
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