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Outdoor running and tagging game played with two goal lines, a leader, and any number of players.

“Across the road I once more scurry, Through the thickest of the fray, Sleeve ripped off by Andy Murray– ‘Let ‘er rip–Pom, pull-away!'” -Hamlin Garland

One of the traditional “boy’s” games played by Laura Ingalls in Walnut Grove (see Wilder’s Pioneer Girl manuscript) was Pullaway, often Pull-away or Pom Pom Pull-Away. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that she was such a tomboy, she often led the girls into the boys’ games, and only one boy in the class could run faster than she, and sometimes she could even beat him!

PULLAWAY. A game played in any outdoor space wide enough to allow for two goal lines at opposite ends, pullaway is played by all the players starting behind one goal line, with one person acting as the leader, or “It.” At a signal from the leader (a shout or flag waved), all the players start running to the opposite goal line while avoiding being tagged by “It.” It they are tagged, they then join the leader in tagging other players, who also join in the tagging. After un-tagged players have crossed the other goal line, the caught players return to their original starting-line to cheer on the others. Play continues until all players have been tagged, the last player able to cross the line without being caught becoming the leader of the next game.

The following poem was published in 1893:

Pom Pom Pull Away

Out on the snow the boys are springing,
Shouting blithely at their play,
Through the night their voices ringing
Sound the cry, Pom, pull away!
Up the sky the round moon stealing,
Trails a robe of shimmering white;
Overhead the Great Bear wheeling
Round the pale stars’ steady light.

The air with frost is keen and stinging–
“Pom, pom, pull-away!”
Big boys whistle, girls are singing:
“Come away ‘r I’ll fetch ye ‘way.”
Ah! the phrase has magic in it,
Piercing frosty moon-lit air,
And in about a half-a-minute
I am part and parcel there.

Across the road I once more scurry,
Through the thickest of the fray,
Sleeve ripped off by Andy Muray–
“Let ‘er rip–Pom, pull-away!
Mother’ll mend it in the morning,
(Dear old patient, smiling face!)
One more patch my sleeve adorning–
“Whoop ‘er up!” is no disgrace.

Moonbeams on the snow-crust splinter,
Air that stirs the blood like wine;
What cared we for cold of winter–
Or for maiden’s soft eyes’ shine?
Give us but a score of skaters
And the game Pom, pull away,
We were always girl-beraters,
Forgot them wholly, truth to say.

O voices through the night air ringing!
O thoughtless happy boys at play!
O silver clouds the keen wind winging
At the cry, Pom, pull away!
I sit and dream with keenest longing
For that star-lit magic night–
For my noisy playmjates thronging
And the slow moon’s trailing light.

— Hamlin Garland, Prairie Songs (Cambridge: Stone and Kimball, 1893), 147-148.


Pullaway (PG)