Mud Tug

Jeff M. Sauve

“Take one big hole, fill with water, add a mixture of Oles and Carls, throw in a rope, splash around, make one big mess—it’s the Mud-Tug!” Aptly named, the annual freshmen tradition for St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges started in 1954 as a “worthwhile” event as the rivalry between the two schools had become outrageous at times with brawls and vandalism.

The Manitou Messenger noted in the inaugural year, “The freshmen on either side of the river saw each other as human beings in daylight, and when they sat down together for refreshments after the Tug they pretty much lost all interest in exchanging body blows come the night before homecoming.” [See site story Old Main Homecoming Bonfires.]

Although the tradition was short-lived, concluding in 1957, each school hosted the contest semi-annually: Carleton: 1954 and 1956 at Bell Field; and St. Olaf: 1955 and 1957 between Thorson Hall and Boe Memorial Chapel.

Three tug-of-war competitions took place based on weight classes: light (under 150 lbs.), medium (150-180 lbs.), and heavy (over 181 lbs.). Described as a “glorified irritation ditch” with muddy water no warmer than 40° F, the men tugged until one team slid grandly into muck ultimately meeting their “Waterloo.”