Gander Pulling

Submitted by J.C. Knowles

Here is another of the Rev. R.H. Whitaker’s anecdotes from his book “Incidents and Anecdotes” published in 1905.

I never saw a “gander pulling,” but I missed seeing one only a day. I arrived at Mr. McLeod’s one Friday evening, when I was carrying the mail, in my boyhood, and not seeing “Sandy,” his son, I asked his sister, then a young lady, where he was. I understood her to say that he had gone to a candy pulling. In a short while he came home and at the supper I asked him about the candy pull he had attended that day. He and the family laughed at my question and I was no little embarrassed for a moment, as I knew I must have made a blunder in some way. It was soon explained to me that it was a “gander pulling” and not a candy pulling, as I understood it to have been. I said no more, for I did not wish to expose my ignorance by inquiring what a gander pull was. Next morning, however, I found out. Just before I reached Rollin’s store, I passed the place where the pulling occurred the day before. I noticed a slender sapling that had been trimmed up to the top and bent down so that one on horseback could almost reach it. Mr. Rollins explained to me at the breakfast that was where the gander pulling took place.

I will describe the pulling as he described it to me. To the limber sapling, bent down, an old gander is tied by his feet, so he can use his wings to flutter around. A prize is offered to them rider who, going under that pole at full speed, can jerk the gander’s head off. A man on each side, with whip in hand gives the horse a lick just about the time the rider is reaching for the gander’s neck. So, in the first place it’s uncertain about getting the neck; and in the next place the neck’s so tough, and the pole is so limber, and the horse is going at full speed, a fellow don’t have much time to wring. It takes hours; sometimes, Mr. Rollins told me, it took half a day, to get the head. That’s gander pulling as it used to be in Moore County.

If the ganders of those times were as tough as one I had baked for dinner, some years ago, I am not surprised it took the pullers half a day to get his head. Mine was cooked, off and on, for a week. My cook did not believe Noah had that gander in the ark; she rather thought he was one of Methuselah’s that survived the flood by roosting high and swimming around. The cook might have been mistaken.

* Whitaker’s Reminiscences, Incidents, and Anecdotes, by Rev. R. H. Whitaker, D.D., 1905

"A Gander-Pull" in Harper's Weekly February 3, 1894 by Frederic Remington

“A Gander-Pull” in Harper’s Weekly February 3, 1894 by Frederic Remington