Distinctive Hope: The Pull

The Black River has been an iconic part of the Pull tug-of-war for longer than living memory, but there can be too much of a good thing.

In fact, Lake Michigan’s near-record level, which had a corresponding impact on the event’s long-time Black River site, and plentiful rain leading up to the Pull prompted a historic change. With water rising from below filling the pits and access to the river’s south side all but impossible, the freshman-sophomore contest relocated to campus for this year’s installment, held on Saturday, Sept. 28.

To describe the move (to 11th Street between Lincoln and Fairbanks avenues) as significant would be a major understatement. As best can be gleaned from memory and period accounts, the Pull had previously taken place at just three locations since it began in 1898: first across a small stream near Pilgrim Home Cemetery, and since 1910 across the Black River (moving upstream in 1952 from the usual site to the American Legion golf course because of wet conditions). Tradition is a valued part of the Pull experience, and as can be imagined, the student organizers agonized over the decision.

In the end, the Pull proved to be more than its setting. The tableau was the same: opposing rows of pullers and moralers clad in their traditional attire guided by a caller hidden from the other side by a towering banner. The teams (12 per side this year because the freshmen recruited fewer than the 18-member maximum) vied with as much heart. Arguably, there was also at least one benefit: If anything, the prominent location and ease of reaching it increased the audience.

And the outcome? With neither the sophomore Class of ’22 nor the freshman Class of ’23 claiming the rope outright, the event ran the three-hour maximum and as has happened in many years was decided by measurement. The freshmen won by 10 feet, 1 inch.

For a gallery of images from this year’s Pull, please visit the college online.