Tug-of-War Tradition: Forestry vs. Civil Engineering

Q&A on the Forestry vs. Civil Engineering Tug-of-War Tradition with Professor Tom Isenhart, associate professor of natural resource ecology and management.

When did the tug-of-war take place?

The tug of war took place as scheduled during VEISHEA 2010 with a large turn-out from both Forestry and Civil Engineering.  It drew quite a crowd.  A photo of the event was featured in the Des Moines Register.

Who won?

Forestry won 6-3.  The Tug-of-War was split into three pulls for each of men, women, and men-women.

Do you know when and how the tradition started?

  • Little is known about when/how the tradition started.  In consulting some of the “historians” (senior faculty), apparently the tradition extended quite a ways back and was perhaps an outgrowth of other fabled hijnks between the Colleges of Agriculture and Engineering (eg. Ag putting horses in Marston/Engineering bricking the entrance to Curtiss).  Another faculty member offered that they thought it may have been related to the friendly rivalry between Forestry and C.E. students within a surveying course that was required for both disciplines.

Why did it stop in the 1960s?

No one is quite sure why the tradition stopped, with the one possibility offered that it was related to changes in the student club structure within one/both departments.  Inscriptions on the axe date from 1959 to 1967 with Forestry winning 5 times and C.E. 4 times.

Why was it revived in 2010?

Forestry Club members came across the double-bit axe when shifting club materials to a new storage room.  They questioned senior faculty about the event and learned that it was an annual tradition between students in Forestry and Civil Engineering.  They also learned that the Tug-of-War used to be held across Lake Laverne.  Forestry Club members decided to see if there was interest in reviving the tradition and arranged with the president of the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers for members to visit one of their meetings.  A contingent of Forestry Club members showed up in “full regalia” of boots and suspenders, displayed the axe, and challenged the Civil Engineers to a Tug-of-War on Central Campus during VEISHEA.  The Civil Engineers were eager to take up the challenge.

Reaction to reviving this tradition?

Reaction was extremely positive.  Everyone enjoyed the spirit of the competition and is anxious to continue the event.  The Clubs agreed to a set of rules which includes the “losing” side visiting the other club and “challenging” them to regain the axe.

Story behind “coveted double-bit trophy”?

Little is known of the story behind the double-bit axe.  Although Forestry Club members apparently caused a bit of a stir the evening they walked across campus to visit the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.