HumanProgress.org published an essay this week about “gander pulling” and how “the callous diversions of yore can help put the modern world into perspective.”
What, pray tell, is “gander pulling”? According to HumanProgress’ Chelsea Follett,
Consider “gander pulling,” which entailed beheading a live goose, barehanded, while riding a horse—and, usually, while drunk—in front of a roaring crowd. Particularly popular around Easter in the American South, gander pulling was once a beloved pastime in the United States and many parts of Europe. The writer Carl Sandburg claims that even U.S. President Abraham Lincoln attended gander pulls in his youth.
It may be hard to believe that people chose to spend their time in this manner, but they did. The sport even earned an entry in Merriam-Webster.com, which defines it as “a pastime especially formerly in the South and Southwest in which a person on horseback rides rapidly past a goose hanging with its neck down and greased and tries to pull off its head.” The blood sport was most popular from the 17th to the 19th centuries and may date back to 12th-century Spain. Gander pulling may also be the source of the idiom “the goose hangs high,” meaning that “things are or will be pleasant, desirable, or merry.”