on Hashing


Attention, writers & reporters: If you're looking for information on the Hash House Harriers and hashing, this section of the Half-Mind Catlog contains a lot of background and history. Harrier Net is also an excellent source of information on hashing.

A Hash Primer

Hashing . . . it's a mixture of athleticism and sociability, hedonism and hard work; a refreshing break from the nine-to-five routine. Hashing is an exhilaratingly fun combination of running, orienteering, and partying, where bands of harriers and harriettes chase hares on eight-to-ten kilometer-long trails through town, country, jungle, and desert, all in search of exercise, camaraderie, and good times.

Hashing, as we know it today, began in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1938, when a group of restive British company men started a hare & hounds running group. They named the group after their meeting place, the Selangor Club, aka the "Hash House." Hash House Harrier runs were patterned after the traditional British public school paper chase. A "hare" would be given a short head start to blaze a trail, marking his devious way with shreds of paper, soon to be pursued by a shouting pack of "harriers." Only the hare knew where he was going . . . the harriers followed his marks to stay on trail. Apart from the excitement of chasing down the wily hare, solving the hare's marks and reaching the end was its own reward, for there, thirsty harriers would find a tub of iced-down beer.

Hashing died during World War II (Japanese occupying forces being notoriously opposed to civilian fun), but came back to life in the post-war years, spreading slowly through Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand, then exploding in popularity in the late 70s and early 80s. Today there are thousands of Hash House Harrier clubs in all parts of the world, complete with newsletters, directories, and regional and world hashing conventions.

Despite its growth, hashing hasn't strayed far from its British and Malaysian roots. A typical hash "kennel" is a loosely-organized group of 20-40 men and women who meet weekly or biweekly to chase the hare. We follow chalk, flour, or paper, and the trails are never boring. When forced to, we'll run the occasional street or alley, but in general we prefer shiggy . . . fields, forests, jungles, swamps, streams, fences, storm drains, and cliffs. And although some of today's health-conscious hashers may shun a cold beer in favor of water or a diet soda, trail's end is still a party. Perhaps that's why they call us the "drinking club with a running problem!"

So . . . if you'd like to spice up your running program with fun, good company, new surroundings, and physical challenge, try hashing. Just remember one thing . . . never wear new shoes to the hash!

If you'd like to try hashing, there's probably a group in your area.
Why not check it out?
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Mystique of the Hash

What is it about hashing that casts its spell over us and feeds our addiction? Hashing is, after all, a weird aberration in the world of recreational running. I raise the question, rhetorically, because curious people ask about it. They don't understand what it is that makes mature adults participate in an activity where the downsides and hazards seem so obvious. They wonder why we seem to abuse our bodies and risk our necks by running through inhospitable terrain. Thickets clogged with thorns poised to shred the skin of our legs. Venues burgeoning with poison ivy, ticks, bees, and whatever creepy-crawly thing that may be endemic to a particular corner of the world. Why do we choose to run up and down steep and often slippery trails filled with rocks and roots? What sadistic impulse drives the hares to lay trails that make us climb over and through Cyclone fences and barbed wire, slosh through streams and swampland rich in sneaker-sucking mud? What defects in our collective character allow us to trespass on farmland, private estates, golf courses, or cause security guards to get their undies in a bunch when we saunter through shopping malls? Why do we court disaster by feeling our way through dark, water-filled culverts and tootling along stretches of railroad tracks? People wonder how men and women . . . especially men . . . can reconcile themselves to a degree of shamelessness that allows them to participate in a huge slice of lunacy called a "Red Dress Run." Who were the warped minds that conjured up an event in which free spirits reign supreme and the masses, garishly decked out in red dresses, careen around crowded business districts in cities throughout the world yelling inanities like "On, On!" or just screeching like banshees. And if we're really lucky, all of this neat stuff might go on during a thunderstorm, a blizzard, or in the dark of night.

Our favored response is to tell these perplexed mortals, "We're a drinking club with a running problem!" It really is a pretty cute rejoinder that often elicits a broad smile and maybe a shout of approval . . . but it's also misleading and it doesn't always turn out to be the perfect little snappy remark we want it to be. To some onlookers it is a validation of their moral indignation. There's something scandalous about a bizarre behavior being displayed by a bunch of freaky people. People so deficient in basic "family values" that they let themselves get caught up in a wave of mob psychology which makes it okay to be seen as offensive or infantile. The misleading part is the inherent suggestion that hashers are a bunch of boozers. Not so. Emphatically, not so! One of the wonderful things about hashers is their unstated and unspoken resolve to never put pressure on anyone to use alcoholic beverages. It is clearly understood that some people prefer not to use alcohol. They don't like it, or health considerations rule it out. These hashers are accorded total respect. We don't even joke about it. Sometimes our response to anal-retentive mentalities derives from the oft-stated conviction that says, "If you're talking to a hasher, you don't need to explain your addiction. If you're talking to a non-hasher, you can't explain it." I don't think so. We find easy comfort in this answer, but it's a little too trite. Too smug. It's a cop-out. I think we can give people answers that will make sense to them. Some of them may even decide to give hashing a try.

Here then is one hasher's attempt to gather some bits and pieces of what may eventually evolve into a definitive apologetic. There is no rationale for the order of the topics as presented. No progression from trivial to powerful---just a bunch of reasons supporting the Hash House Harrier mystique in a way that may help outsiders get a better notion of what it's all about. It's not enough to say that it's all about fun and fitness. A lot of running clubs feature that slogan and, in a sense, it says it all and it makes an important statement to the effect that our passion is not necessarily related to competition, winning, or ego inflation. Paradoxically, however, it says nothing at all until we get into some details to explain what we mean by "fun" and how do we experience a joie de vivre you just can't get with treadmills and barbells. Oh, yes, the fitness gym has its place, but while the "no pain, no gain" mentality arguably sucks, it does work and it requires no explanation. Hashing, by contrast, is an alternative to the world of grunting, stinking, sweating bodies holed up in a jungle of steel contraptions. Hashing leads to a different level of fitness that contributes to the soundness of body in a less aggressive way. We can replace the grimace with a smile as the hashers' way to fitness takes us into an environment filled with the sounds, sights, and smells of nature.

Men and women of all ages regularly savor the joy of a group activity that takes us bounding over trails through forests, along (and often into) ponds and rivers. over high meadows, and even over patches of asphalt. The variety of locales is wonderful, too. Hardly ever do we run old trails in familiar places. The noncompetitive aspect of hashing is a joyful release from the oval track, stop watches, and finishing chutes of the good old 10 K roadrace. Of course we find fun and camaraderie at the roadraces, too. Lots of hashers are avid roadracers and there is no reason for hashing and roadracing to be an either/or choice. The roadrace has its rewards: another T-shirt (like you only have 250 and you need more), medals, trophies, adulation (if you're an "elite" runner), or just a huge sense of accomplishment if you've covered the whole 26 miles of a marathon.

Hash rewards, however, include a higher level of camaraderie that can only exist among close friends. Mutually shared expressions of warmth and affection doled out with hugs and smiles that extend naturally beyond the hash event. We enjoy getting together for non-running social events, too. Periodically, hashers will gather for a trip to the seashore or the mountains, a dinner together at an exotic restaurant, an entertainment event like a ballgame or a concert, or maybe just meeting together for a happy hour at a local brewpub and celebrate someone's birthday. Our occasional T-shirt is usually an item we buy to celebrate a special hash event, like a red dress tun. The only tangible award we can offer is a mug of beer to the "winners" of a hash. Toward that end, we bring a characteristically perverse humor by presenting our "awards" to the hares who volunteered to host the hash and lay the trail, short-cutters, front-runners, visitors, and new hashers (referred to as "Cherries", "Virgins" or "New Boots"). The "award ceremony" is like nothing else. The eating and drinking climax to our physical exertions is called an "apres" in which our designated "religious advisor," striving for a high level of refreshing irreverence, leads us in the singing of appropriately raunchy tunes.

The variety of personalities that constitute a regional hash are quite amazing. And it's not only the individual hashers---the hash, as an entity, is likely to have a personality. Some hash units are more party oriented rather than being gung-ho for running. In a light-hearted way, they display their mock disdain for hard running by using the word "run" as though it were an obscenity. They're also quick to jokingly ridicule any hashers daring to wear T-shirts from roadraces. Such blasphemy will surely earn them a down-down at the apres. Other hash units are composed of many serious runners who thirst after physically daunting trails. They may even manage to create some kind of competitive twist to the event. Apparently, the primal forces of our human nature will cause the competitive fire to burn in contradiction of the hash mentality. Some hashers love to sing. The raunchier the lyrics, the better. And many hash units embrace the whole spectrum of motivations.

But back to the individuals because here is where we have something special in the social interaction of all kinds of men and women. What is wonderful about it, and what is something of a unique hash phenomenon, is the total, unquestioning acceptance that hashers have for each other. People do not come to a hash with agendas that include a need to impress others with how important, or rich, or how smart they are. Nobody cares if you're a plumber, stockbroker, big shot executive, tax collector (well, that might create some negative disposition), lawyer (with a high tolerance for nasty jokes), salesperson, chemistry prof (they're the worst kind), or whatever. Criteria for acceptance into hash events are simply a few bucks to pay for food and drink, a love of adventure running on trails, and a zest for partying that is likely to be on the "R-rated" side.

With regard to attitudes and philosophies, the hash is typically a land of diversity: Conservatives and liberals, religious types, irreverent characters, party animals as well as quiet loners, and some people who drift in who are right off the wall. But these unique personalities are fully accepted and we don't call them "weird." We prefer to say that they are just "different," and the encompassing arms of the hash will be long enough and strong enough to encompass "different" people within our circle. One of the really delightful things about hashing is the chance it affords us to react to the smothering effect of political and social correctness. To be a rebel. To leave, temporarily, our sheltered structures and directed work-a-day worlds that are so filled with expectations and responsibilities. There are no Rules in the hash universe. The hash is the time and place for behavior based on a mock disrespect for genteel conventions and family values. But it's all done in a spirit of fun, and that's why it works and exists as a major part of the hash mystique. There's a lot of tongue-in-cheek insulting that goes on. A kind of crude banter that elicits smiles rather than hurt feelings. It is clearly understood that teasing is just a light-hearted bit of fluff among people who have profound respect and genuine affection for each other. It's the hash style to kid people about mismanaging events, laying ugly trails, or botching up whatever it is that somebody with a brain would do correctly. Another characteristic of many hash groups throughout the world is the special nickname that assembled hashers hang on a newly inducted member. The age, gender, or lifestyle of the newcomer is irrelevant. The scatological approach is basic to any flimsy pretext for selecting a raunchy name for the victim. Resisting an inclination to give some examples, it will be simply noted here that this singular event allows the hash to cross the line separating decency from the realm of poor taste and cruelty toward wildlife (i.e., hashers).

Of course, the world of the hash has its share of human imperfection. Most of us will occasionally have that kind of day where we feel a little grouchy and behave in a way that rubs somebody's fur the wrong way. Where onr draws the line between good-natured taunting and crude insult varies with people. Some folks can handle an unrestricted litany of jokes and songs and always find the humor. But when you get into jokes involving sexual orientation, toilet functions, race, ethnicity, blondes, and lawyers, some people will feel deeply offended. What distinguishes humor from poor taste and gross insensitivity will always be perceived differently by different people. Personality conflicts are another inevitability, but that's something we'll always have to live with. What is great about the hash is the degree of harmony that seems to have become one of the major characteristics of our remarkably inclusive society.

It is largely because of this spirit, this attitude, that the hash movement has evolved into an unstructured but nevertheless international affiliation. For example, it is absolutely fantastic how a hasher from one part of the world can get on the Internet and hit on the web pages of hashes thousands of miles away, then, choosing among the e-mail addresses displayed, contact an officer of any foreign hash, introduce himself and announce his plans to be there on such and such a date, and ask if there's a local hasher who has enough room for him to crash for a day or two so that he can hash with them. In the hash, the answer is never No, it's always positive. There is a real sense of fraternity among hashers throughout the world that opens doors and multiplies friendships.

Stan Cherim
Hockessin HHH, Deleware USA

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Goals of the Hash

from the 1950 club registration for the city of KL gotothehash.net/history/rules.html

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History of the Hash Disorganization

The Hash House

The "Hash House" was the mildly derogatory nickname given (for its unimaginative, monotonous food) to the Royal Selangor Club Chambers in Kuala Lumpur by the British civil servants and businessmen who lived and dined there between the two World Wars, when it had become something of a social center of the times. Situated close to and behind the present Selangor Club, its function changed after independence and it became an office for the Water Board. Sadly, the "Hash House" was demolished around 1964 to make way for a new highway, Jalan Kuching, although the buildings housing the original stables and servants quarters are still in existence.

The Ancient Harriers

The idea of harriers chasing paper was not new to Malaya in 1938, as there had been such clubs before in Kuala Lumpur and Johore Bahru, and there were clubs in existence in Malacca and Ipoh (the Kinta Harriers) at the time. Note: the early harrier groups in Malaya were based on English public school "paper chase" or "hare & hound" runs, which date back as far as the 18th Century (Flying Booger). "Horse" Thomson (one of the Kuala Lumpur Hash House Harriers' founding fathers) recalled being invited on a run shortly after his arrival in Johore Bahru in 1932, which chased a paper trail and followed basic Hash rules every week, but was so magically organized that it had no name. The club flourished in the early 1930s but is believed to have died out around 1935. The other branch of our ancestry comes from Malacca, where A. S. ("G") Gispert was posted in 1937 and joined a club called the Springgit Harriers, who also operated weekly under Hash rules and are believed to have been formed in 1935. Some months later, "Torch" Bennett visited him and came as a guest on a few runs.

The Hash House Harriers

By 1938, "G" Gispert, "Horse" Thompson, and "Torch" Bennett had all moved to Kuala Lumpur and, joined by Cecil Lee, Eric Galvin and H. M. Doig, they founded their own club, following the rules they had learnt elsewhere. Gispert is credited with proposing the name "Hash House Harriers" when the Registrar of Societies required the gathering to be legally registered. Other early members included Frank Woodward, Philip Wickens, Lew Davidson, John Wyatt-Smith and M. C. Hay. After 117 runs, KLHHH was forced into temporary hibernation by the arrival of the Japanese. Sadly, Gispert did not live to see his extraordinary creation revive, being killed in the fighting on Singapore Island on February 11th, 1942.

Postwar Rebirth

It took nearly 12 months after the war for the survivors of the Kuala Lumpur HHH to reassemble. Bennett put in a claim for the lost hash mugs, a tin bath and two old bags from Government funds, and post-war Run No. 1 was a trot around the racecourse in August 1946.

The Hash Spreads Out

Strangely, it took another 16 years for the second HHH chapter to be founded, in Singapore in 1962, followed by Kuching in 1963, Brunei, Kota Kinabalu, and Ipoh in 1964, Penang and Malacca in 1965. Perth, Australia* was the first "overseas" Chapter, formed in 1967. Even in 1974, when KLHHH had Run No. 1500, the HHH had only 35 chapters worldwide. Now the Hash world has over 1200 active chapters, in some 160 countries, and this despite the total absence of any central organization. We are unique!

*According to the World HHH Directory, Sydney HHH was the first Australian hash, founded in 1967 (Perth HHH was founded in 1970) - Flying Booger

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Words From a Founder

From the Kuala Lumpur Hash House Harriers 1500th Run Pamphlet, June 23rd 1973

The Hash House Harriers were founded in a moment of post-prandial inspiration at the Selangor Club Chambers, about 1937/38, by the inmates, who included myself; E.J. Galvin, Malay Mail; H.M. Doig (H&C - killed in an air crash just before the Japanese War); and A.S. Gispert of Evatt & Co. Gispert was the real founder - a man of great wit and charm, who was killed only just returned from leave in Australia to rejoin the Volunteers. I am glad of this opportunity to salute his memory. He was a splendid fellow, and would be happy to know the Harriers are still going strong, and are as merry and bright as ever - or more so. Gispert was not an athlete, and stress was laid as much on the subsequent refreshment, etc., as on the pure and austere running. It was non-competitive, and abounded in slow-packs. Life was then conservative rather than competitive.

The name was a mock allusion to the institution that housed and fed us. Later, Torch Bennett returned from leave, and produced order out of chaos - a bank account, balance sheet, and some system. But we prided ourselves on being rather disorganised - or the minimum organisation sufficed. The original joint maters were myself and "Horse" Thompson, still running somewhere - a past-master at short-cuts and the conservation of energy.

Celebrations were held in various places, and the first was in what is now the Legislative Council, then the Volunteer Mess. The oratory, I recall, was much the same as now. Lew Davidson is an old member. Morris Edgar was one, but apart from Lew and John Wyatt-Smith I do not think there are any more ante-diluvians still running. Philip Wickens was also one who kept us going post-war.

We started up again after the War due to Torch Bennett, who discovered a Bank Balance and put in a claim for War Damage on one tin bath, and two dozen mugs, and possibly two old bags (not members). We started by a small run in reduced circumstances round the race-course - then the horses were not much better.

The Emergency cramped our style but did not diminish our activities, and we were even called in for information on various by-ways in Selangor, but our period of usefulness to MI 5 was brief, and our information probably otiose. But the hares ran into two bandits at Cheras, who were later copped.

An Irish Accountant, Kennedy, drew up the Rules when we had to register as a Club, and he seems to have preserved the old traditions just as you do now.

Cecil H. Lee
Selamat Tinggal HHH
Kuala Lumpur
24th October 1958

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History of Major Hash Events


The Mother Hash (Kuala Lumpur) held several invitational hash get-togethers during the early days of hashing, but the InterHash era is generally agreed to have started in 1978, when the Kowloon HHH hosted the first international assembly of hashers outside Malaysia, in Hong Kong. Held every even-numbered year since, InterHash gatherings have included:

Regional Interhashes

Regional interhashes occur during odd-numbered years between InterHash years. The major regional interhash gatherings include the PanAsia Hash, EuroHash, and InterAmericas Hash (see below). As with InterHash, regional interhashes have been held in several countries, with hash chapters throughout the respective regions bidding to hold future regional interhashes.

Nash Hashes

The original Nash (for "national") Hash was held in New Zealand in 1977, and Australian hashes soon adopted the idea. Note: There's some debate over this assertion - the British claim to have put on the first Nash Hash in 1981, with Surrey HHH as host. It could well be that the 1977 NZ event, although national in scope, did not use the word "Nash" in the title. I've heard the British side of the story. Any Kiwis care to comment?

In any event, Nash hashes have become a strong biennial tradition in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, the USA, and many other countries.

History of InterAmericas Hash

InterAmericas Hash is a biennial event held somewhere in the Americas, usually taking place in late August or early September. Past locations include:

Other Significant Years in Hash History

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Elements of Hashing

Basically a hash consists of three main parts, none of which have anything to do with the marijuana or hashish:

The Run (aka Trail)

One or two hashers, called the hare(s), lay a trail. They mark their trail with chalk arrows, shredded paper, flour, or pieces of toilet paper hanging in the bush, depending on local tradition or terrain. They might pre-lay trail a day or a few hours before the hash, or they might lay the trail as "live hares," running ahead of the pack with only a short (15 minutes is typical) head start. At a given signal, the rest of the hash (the Harriers, Harriettes, hounds, or pack) set off in pursuit of the trail. The idea is to keep the pack somewhat together and this is achieved by setting false trails, cunning checks, and sneaky loops. The fitter front runners will often run twice as far as the more slothful members, yet still finish the run at the same time as the rest of the pack. The length and difficulty of the run depends on the hare and the terrain but will typically be between four and eight kilometers, or about 45 minutes to an hour of running with checks, false trails, and shortcutting.

The Circle (aka Religion)

At trail's end hashers gather to drink beer and observe religious ceremonies . . . which consist of drinking more beer, this time ritualistically. Circles may be led by the hash Grandmaster, the Religious Adviser, or by a committee of mismanagement. Traditions (and the degree of rowdiness) vary from hash to hash, but in general the Circle consists of awarding "Down-Downs" for misdemeanors real, imagined, or blatantly made up, and the recipients will most likely have been dobbed in by their fellow hashers. Visitors are always given a Visitors Down-Down as are Virgins (first-time hash runners) and anyone else who comes to the attention of the Circle. The Circle can last a couple of minutes or half the night depending on the level of religious fervor of the hash. With changing times drinking has lost some of its importance and most clubs now modify their ceremonies to cater to non-drinkers and those stupid enough to think that hashing can improve their health.

The On-On (aka On-On-On, On-Afters, or Après)

Some hashes suspend ceremonies for awhile to consume food provided by the hare(s). Other hashes, at the conclusion of the Circle, repair to a nearby restaurant or pub. This is the social part of the hash, and the party usually breaks up afterward. In some hashes, however, religion may continue during or after On-Ons, with the telling of jokes and singing of songs, and all members, visitors, and virgins should come armed with at least one joke or song lest they be called upon.

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Booger's Guide to Haring

Every hash has a certain type of wallflower: the harrier or harriette who shows up every week for the trail and the beer, but never hares. Most hash groups try hard to draw their wallflowers out, but there remain a stubbon few who can be relied upon to beg off whenever they're asked to set a trail.

I suspect that when you get right down to it, your really determined wallflower is afraid to hare. Afraid of doing something for the first time, afraid of being criticized for messing up the trail, afraid of being compared with better hares . . . and in a live hare hash, afraid of getting caught! I've hared so many times I can't begin to remember all the trails I've laid, but I'm still terrified every time I do it. I have vivid nightmares the evening before, and once I start laying trail, for the first mile I can't make up my mind whether to suck wind or hyperventilate. I strongly suspect that most hares experience some sort of pre-trail anxiety. It comes with the territory, and it's part of the thrill of haring.

Haring is a thrill, after all, and uniquely rewarding. It really is a kick to plan a trail, especially if you've discovered some unexplored, challenging terrain to spice it up. And there are so many possibilities . . . long straight A to Bs, eagle/turkey splits, uphill detours begging to be BTs, circular trails that can either be A to As, A to almost-As, even A to Bs. Trust me, few things in life come up to the level of fun you'll get from finishing your trail, then running back to a vantage point where you can watch the pack flailing through the shiggy . . . except, perhaps, for the pleasure of knowing you finished your trail without getting caught! Yes, it's rewarding. It adds a new dimension to your enjoyment of hashing, and once you've tried it, you'll want to do it again.

For the benefit of experienced hares who want to learn more about the art, for novice hares, and especially for hashers who would sign up to hare if they didn't find the whole deal so intimidating, here are some tips and techniques I've developed over the years:

Live Hare Trails. Find an experienced co-hare to help you lay your first trail, and listen to his or her advice. This really is the best way to learn . . . it'll also give you added confidence, and you can be sure your co-hare will help you plan your trail to minimize the chance of getting caught. Here are some live hare techniques tailored to your own prowess as a runner:

Dead Hare Trails. At first glance, dead haring appears easier than live haring, but that's not necessarily true. I still recommend working with an experienced co-hare at first. Quite often, novice dead hares lay overly complicated, way-too-long trails, simply because without the worry of getting caught, they can. Here are some thoughts on dead hare trails:

Other Hare Responsibilities. In most hashes, live or dead hare, the hares sweep trail when hashers are overdue, finding DOTs and bringing them on-in. On hot days, hares should provide for water or beer stops along the trail. In hashes without a biermeister, the hares are usually responsible for bringing the beer. In some hashes, the hares are expected to find a suitable on-after restaurant or pub, while in other hashes, the hares bring and cook food for on-afters. But uppermost and always, the hares are responsible for laying a challenging, entertaining trail, the heart of every hash.

As I said, I get excited about haring, and I hope what I've written will help get you excited too. You really haven't experienced the full thrill of hashing until you've hared. Wallflowers, get with it . . . find an experienced co-hare and sign up now!

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The Circle and the Spirit of Hashing

Some time ago, I visited a hash in Southern California. I knew most of the hashers there, so I was with friends. The weather was perfect. The hares and the pack were stoked. The trail was scenic and challenging, and the hares did an outstanding job of keeping the pack together - the quick and the lame finished within ten minutes of each other. The on-in venue was hasher-friendly, far from complaining citizens and overzealous cops. There was an ample supply of beer, snacks, and food. There was a DJ and a dance floor, and the place was ours until two in the morning. Sounds like all the ingredients for a great time, doesn't it? Except for one thing.

The circle. In a word, it Sucked, capital "S" intentional. Not because the GM and RAs didn't have their act together. Not because the pack wasn't interested and paying attention. It sucked because five or six self-appointed sergeants-at-arms kept shouting "SHUT THE F_CK UP" every time more than two hashers started whispering to each other on the outskirts of the circle.

Everything was great until the shouting started. The circle was going fine. Not perfect, but as good as anyone has a right to expect. Sure, there was some background noise and quiet talking, nothing gross. But I guess these guys wanted perfection.

At first it was one shout every five minutes, but it wasn't long before the pack began to resent being shouted at. Who are these thugs? They're not the boss of me! So they made more noise, and within a few minutes the goon squad was in full cry. I felt for the poor GM. He'd say, "Bring up" - "SHUT THE F_CK UP!" - "Manhandler for a" - "SHUT THE F_CK UP!" - "down-down" - "SHUT THE F_CK UP!" - "for getting" - "SHUT THE F_CK UP!" - "lost on trail." You think I'm exaggerating. I'm not - that's literally how bad it was.

The circle disintegrated. No one was paying attention. You couldn't hear yourself drink. I wondered what the hell I was doing there. I sure wasn't having any fun. And if I wasn't having fun, why was I there? What were any of us doing there, and what did all this shouting have to do with hashing?

I haven't noticed this phenomenon overseas, but it seems to be happening more and more in the States. The home of rugged individualism, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness, or so we like to think. When did American hashing, my favorite recreational and social pastime, start needing jack-booted gangs of enforcers? When did the circle get so important we decided we needed SWAT teams to control the unruly pack? When did it get so important to control the pack in the first place?

Why do you hash? You'll probably cite the exercise, the chance to experience the outdoors, the need to get away from your flourescent-lit five-by-five workaday cubicle once a week or so, the opportunity to see new things and learn more about your local geography, the beer, maybe even the occasional harriette flashing her tits. But I bet the main reason you keep coming back to the hash is the camaraderie, the chance to see and visit the good friends you've made at the Hash. And seeing and visiting good friends is not something you can do in perfect silence, it it?

Look, circle organizers, there is going to be a certain amount of background noise during any down-down ceremony, as hashers catch up on news with their friends. Most GMs and RAs understand and accept this. As a matter of fact, when the background noise reaches a certain level, GMs and RAs who are worth a shit take the hint and wind up the formalities. The pack lets you know when it's had enough.

Let's lighten up with the strong-arm tactics, okay? The circle just isn't that important. In fact, there was a time when there wasn't any circle - and still isn't in many hashes. Most of us seem to have forgotten that, or never knew it in the first place.

I've asked this question before, in a rhetorical way: did "G" and his friends, the original Kuala Lumpur Hash House Harriers, have down-downs and a circle? I posed this question to living legend and hash graybeard Ian Cumming. Ian hashed with the Mother Hash in the mid-50s, when Kuala Lumpur was the only hash in the world. He went on to found the Singapore HHH in the early 60s - the second hash in the world. He's one of our few remaining direct links to the founders of hashing. I think you'll find his comments interesting. By the way, the "Bill" Ian refers to is Bill Panton, another ancient, still running with KLHHH (I met Bill recently, and he confirms everything Ian says).

How important are the relatively new traditions of the circle and down-downs? You decide. I like a good circle as much as anyone, but I sure as hell don't come to the hash to be yelled at. I come for all the reasons I've listed above, including singing (which I forgot to mention earlier), but also to see my friends and to have a good time. I think that's what attracted the original Hash House Harriers. I think that's the memory they held to through that horrific war and the dislocations that followed, and that inspired them to reestablish the hash after the war. I think that's what's behind the spirit of hashing, which caught peoples' imaginations and caused the hash to grow to what it is today. back to contents

Deep Thoughts on Religion

Religion, also called "the circle," is an important part of hash tradition, and often the most remembered part of the trail. With over 1,300 hashes in the world, there must be at least 1,300 ways to conduct a circle, but the basics are such that most of us would feel right at home in any hash's circle. The circle, after all, is nothing more than a ceremony to mark trail's end, to socialize a bit, and to award down-downs for achievements and sins.

A good circle, like anything good, doesn't just happen. Conducting the circle is a lot of work, and for many of us, a major source of anxiety as well. How do you remember all the awards and violations you're supposed to hand out? How do you keep the pack's attention? How do you keep people from leaving early or breaking up into private parties? How do you keep things moving and not get bogged down? How do you know when it's time to quit?

Over the years, as grandmaster or religious adviser to various hashes, I've led many circles. I'd have thought that after 3,000,000 beers I wouldn't have enough functioning brain cells left to remember how I got through all those circles, but as I think about religion a surprising number of tips and techniques come to mind. I'd like to share some of them with you, and by "you," I mean any hasher who leads, or is likely to lead, a circle.

There are two philosophies toward conducting a circle. One is to try to make everyone happy. The other is to drive the poseurs away until only the hard core are left, who by definition are the hashers who like the way you run your circle. Most GMs and RAs walk a line between these extremes. We know we can't make everybody happy, but at the same time we don't want our hash to turn cretinous through inbreeding.

Before I say anything else, let me say this: if your hash has a good, solid membership and long-standing circle traditions, don't mess with it. You'll just screw it up. If your hash regularly has good circles, with a high level of attention and participation from the pack, don't change a thing. Obviously, you're doing something right.

But having said that: if your circle is disorganized and you find yourself shouting to be heard over the sound of private parties or the slamming of car doors as hashers leave early, you might want to consider some of the following suggestions:

These are all commonsense things, but they're easy to forget if you don't do a minimum of organizing and preparation beforehand. The main thing is to have a plan for down-downs and awards, and to stick with it, avoiding as many distractions as you can. Leading a good circle is a rewarding experience, and if you're the least bit shy leading the circle will cure you of it permanently. Good luck and a good circle to you, mates! back to contents

A Hash Song

Don't know the melody? Melody Play the MIDI!

Hashers, meet the Hashers,
We're the biggest drunks in history,
From the town of __________,
We're the leaders in debauchery.

Half-minds, trailing shiggy through the years,
Watch us, as we drink a lot of beer,
Down down, down down down down,
Down down down down down down down down down . . .

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What I Like About Hashing

Left to right: Screw Top, Bag Lady & Holy Hawker, Flying Booger, Dr. Kimball, Pencil Dick
San Francisco, October 1999

The trouble with writing editorials is that normally you're bitching about things you don't like. Just for the hell of it, I'd like to mention a few things I like about hashing and hashers. It'll probably put *you* to sleep, but it'll make *me* feel better!

Challenging trails. They don't have to be real short or real long, they don't have to be live or dead, and I don't much care if they're A to A or A to B, but it sure is neat when you come upon something completely unexpected. Once in Okinawa I stepped into what looked like a puddle and went in up to my neck. That was so cool all I could do was laugh.

Hashers who contribute. Mismanagement types who do all the thankless work, week after week. Hashers who organize regional, national, and international events - especially hashers who'll do it a second time! Hashers who offer crash space and rides. Hashers who take the trouble to arrange their travel itineraries so that they can come visit your hash. Hashers who bring goodies from faraway places. Hashers who write up trip reports for everyone to share. What I really like is that hashers like these are everywhere!

I love the international aspect of hashing. I've been in the military for over 20 years, most of those years overseas, but I know three times as many funny-talkin' foreigners through the hash than I ever knew through the military.

Not knowing, or caring, whether the hasher standing next to me in the circle is an attorney, a secretary, a doctor, or a liberal arts major who cleans tables at Burger King. The total break from the workaday world. Not talking about work, mortgages, traffic, politics, or religion. Talking about sex, on the other hand, is way cool. And speaking of which . . .

The way harriettes and harriers interact with each other. I've hashed with men-only and mixed hashes, and I'll take mixed hashes any day. Hashing is one of the few social activities left where men and women don't spend 90% of their time worrying about the sexual or political implications of what they just said - or did. I must say that things tend to get rowdier at mixed hashes than they do at single-sex hashes - which can, depending on the circumstances, be a good thing!

Amendment: I founded a men-only hash in 2000. My idea was to try to recapture some of the spirit of the original hashers, who were, of course, all men. I have to say that I've come to appreciate single-sex hashing, harrier or harriette, and that it has a lot to offer. If you haven't tried it, try at least not to be as closed-minded as I was when I wrote the above words! - Flying Booger

The self-confidence people get from hashing. I guess that comes from having to hold your own in the circle. Normally, 80% of the people in any group are lurkers and boffins, content to hide in the shadows. In the hash, it's less than 50%; in some hashes, less than 10%. Amazing.

Friendships. Some of my best friends are hashers . . . really!

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HHHistory: The Lady in Red Speaks

The Lady in Red, Flying Booger
Tucson, Arizona, June 2004

Most hashers know that the San Diego HHH started the annual Red Dress Run tradition in 1988. Most hashers also know there actually was a "lady in a red dress" behind it all. Some time in 1987 a member of the Long Beach HHH brought a virgin to the hash. The young lady ran trail wearing high heels and a red dress, and later that night went hot tubbing with her new friends, in (or out of?) that same little red dress. The Lady in Red still hashes, and attends Red Dress Runs whenever she can. I was fortunate enough to meet her at the jHavelina Hash House Harriers' Red Dress Run in Tucson, Arizona, where she gave me her own write-up on the events of that night in 1987, the night that started one of the great hashing traditions, the annual Red Dress Run. Here, in her own words, is the history of the Red Dress Run.
- Flying Booger

Ah, where to begin the tale of the legend of The Lady in Red and the original run? Well, way back in 1987, a friend that I had known since high school days convinced me to come to Long Beach, California for a "visit, some beers, and to meet a few friends." I needed a break and it sounded relaxing, so I packed a toothbrush and not much more as I grabbed a flight to the Coast for the visit.

I arrived early in the afternoon. After we left the airport, we stopped for cold beers and to catch up a bit on personal events in our lives. As we were finishing the last of our beers, J. moved on to something that I could tell he was anxious to talk about. Explaining, J. said that he was leading a double life of sorts, one as an upstanding business individual named "J. T." and the other "hashing" as "3M." "Drugs?" I asked in surprise.

He glanced around and lowered his voice to explain that it had begun quite innocently when he had first moved to California and had not made many friends yet. A guy from work invited him to go for a run and a few beers after with some friends. J. said that he went and found a great group of guys to hang with. At first it was just once every couple of weeks, then once a week, plus special runs and road trips up and down the Coast until he was a full-fledged hasher, hare, and eventually brewmeister!

I didn't know what to say. I was stunned. J. was my best friend. He was like my brother! He looked into my eyes and said, "Please come with me on a run tonight. You'll see and understand. Oh, and there will be lots of beer." I know that even though I hadn't run since high school when I had to outrun a group of faculty after a practical joke backfired, I somehow had to go and run with him.

We left the pub and headed for the hashers' meeting point. As I got out of his truck, I looked around. Little groups of two and three people were all smiling and talking with each other. They looked like a mismatched group out for a field trip to the zoo. J. yelled out to the group, "Listen up everyone! I've got a virgin here that we need to make into a new recruit, so make her feel the Hash welcome!"

I'm outgoing and trusted J. fully, but this I didn't know about. I was far from home with no ID or means to leave but by J. and now this motley crew was descending upon me! Here I stood in nothing but a red summer dress with buttons all the way down the front, nylon stockings, red spike heels, and a red ribbon tying back my blonde curls. I felt, to say the least, like a lamb before Easter!

I was drug over to a semi-official-looking person with a clipboard, who handed me a stapled pile of papers that he quickly flipped through and told me it didn't matter. He told me to just fill out the parts about my "mortal name" and next of kin information. My hands began to sweat, my heart pounded, and my mouth became dry. What was I getting myself into? I wondered: was this some kind of strange cult; was I to become a human sacrifice; could I still trust J.; had this group warped his mind? As I pondered the papers and the scene before me a guy with horns on his head and a bugle strung around his neck asked me if I had talked to the "hares" yet (talking rabbits?), and wanted to know what kind of beer I liked. Beer? Yes, J. had told me that there would be beer! The other guy reappeared, took my scribbled "release from harm" forms, gave me a whistle ("Here, you'll need this when you get lost") and a huge chunk of chalk that looked like it had been a part of someone's wall shortly before this.

As I stood there dazed and confused, J. slipped back beside me and, smiling, told me that I was going to love this. He explained about the talking rabbits, horns, terms, "rules," and odd hieroglyphic signs drawn on the ground with chalk and flour. He gave me a drink of water, patted my shoulder and trotted off to what he called "the pack" to talk to a bunch of guys with really strange names. I took a deep breath, reminded myself that I always believed that life was meant to be an adventure; that I would try anything once (twice if it didn't kill me the first time). Smiling, I joined a group stretching to warm up and pretended that I knew what I was doing. I had no clue!

The "G.M." appeared, and speaking only to 3M as if I wasn't there, emphatically told him that women just didn't do such a thing (hash!). I spoke up and asked, "Why? Is there a rule against it? Will a giant bolt of lightning strike us all dead? Will the Earth cease to exist?" I told him that if he had no proof that any of this was true and if there was beer, then I was running. The G.M. spoke slowly as if to a child as he explained that I was not dressed properly for the run and that I should "just wait in the truck until 3M returned."

Several hashers volunteered to lend this damsel proper attire, but their attempts were quickly rebuffed by the G.M. and other hashers. 3M looked at me and smiled. He knew that I didn't like to be spoken to in a condescending manner and didn't take "no" for an answer.

I watched the start of the run from the edge of the group. There was horn blowing, yelling, whistles blowing, and in an instant they were all gone, leaving me to watch the cloud of dust settle. I stood there looking at the chalk still in my hand. I had signed the forms, had been promised beer, and I was going to run. So, in a red dress and heels, I did just that.

I won't bore you with all the details of the run, but it was supposed to be an easy three miles and on flat ground. It ended up with a lot of people calling "hash shit." It was a trail of six miles over brush covered steep hills, barrio areas, and the last mile was on sandy beach!

At one point I began to wish that I'd thought this through a bit more! I did get a bit lost, but a large woman with curlers in her hair, hanging out of a second story tenement building, pointed out that my "lily white ass looked like it don't belong around here" and that I should catch up to "those crazy other folk running four blocks down." I would have thanked her, but my dry tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth and I was busy trying to keep my liver from moving further up into my chest where my heart was threatening to explode. I ran past a taco stand where I stole a cup of Coke off a guy's tray as I took a short cut through the fast food parking lot. As I did this I thought, "Great, now this group has turned me into a thief! What's next?"

I also, while on the same, very bad, side of town, upon hearing a bugle blowing and thinking that the group must be inside, burst through the door of a stranger's house and yelled "Where the hell's the beer?" A huge black man who seemed to fill all of the living room answered my question. He was standing next to his small son, who'd been practicing on his horn. The man told me that he didn't allow beer, foul language, or seductively dressed women into his house. As I backed out of the door, I apologized profusely and ran out quickly, renewed by fear.

I finally crawled my way down the beach to join the entire group, which had arrived well before me (the pack included a five-year-old boy and a senior citizen recovering from triple-bypass surgery). I had hoped to make a graceful entrance but now all I could think of was that I survived and I wanted beer! I drank my first down-down in record setting speed and demanded a refill that went down just as fast! As I started my third tankard, I debated whether to hit or hug 3M.

We eventually moved the on-on-on to a bar where we were thrown out before I got the food I'd ordered. This pattern continued through three bars where I continued to drink, learn limericks and pub songs . . . and teach a few too!

As for the story about the hot tub and me, I didn't know that it too became a part of history until one of my sons came home from a bar and told me a limerick about a lady in red in a hot tub! I smiled and told him that I knew her well!

From the last bar we moved to someone's apartment where we spent the night hot tubbing. Everyone in the know had brought a bathing suit or at least had underwear. I was not prepared. Not one of the guys offered anything for me to use. I suspected that they wanted to test how interesting things could get since there was only one female besides myself there at the time (other females did show up soon after when word got out that there was a blonde in the hot tub with all the guys). Everyone watched how I would handle having nothing to change into for the hot tub after I was given the invitation. I looked over at 3M, who smiled back knowing that I would somehow end up putting the hashers on the spot. I told them it was not a problem, slipped off my heels, unfastened my stockings, took them off, and jumped into the hot tub wearing only the famous red dress and a smile.

I hadn't eaten all day, since we were thrown out of all the bars before my orders arrived. During the evening, I explained that hops in beer was not food and that I was still hungry. The hashers obliged by turning a garbage can lid into a serving plate full of chips and floating it my way in the hot tub. Zulu Boy realized that I needed more than that and was kind enough to pick me up out of the hot tub, dripping wet, and take me inside to find something for me.

The rest of the details of the evening are shared by those who were there, told in limerick and song, and if we meet and you buy me a beer, perhaps I'll tell you. Zulu Boy did say of the event, in Sports Illustrated Magazine, that he "was still in awe," and "would never forget The Lady in Red."

That weekend, I begged 3M to find more hash runs. I went on three more. The last on-on-on he had to drag me from under protest in order to get me to the airport on time. During that weekend, three combined hash groups deemed me "The Lady in Red."

The following year I had moved to Houston, Texas, where the San Diego Hash House Harriers tracked me down, sent me plane tickets, and demanded that I attend the first annual Red Dress Run being held in my honor! Word had spread up and down the Coast and hashers from all over California attended. Men and women alike were required to wear red dresses. I was later told that hundreds attended. California newspapers and TV news serviced covered the event.

I was and still am overwhelmed at the notoriety and response! At the crowning ceremony for me at that very first Red Dress Run, I, in my acceptance speech, suggested the one thing that would make me most pleased for the annual event: I suggested that a portion of the proceeds go to worthwhile charities to benefit others and to help build a bit of a positive image for hashers . . . if that were ever possible! Now, every time I see a Red Dress Run on a calendar and read of the charity it is for, I can't help but smile and wonder what fun I'll have in the same red dress and heels when I attend!

For more information about Red Dress Runs around the world go to: http://www.reddressruns.org/ .

The Lady in Red

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A Hash Primer ©1995 by Paul "Flying Booger" Woodford
Mystique of the Hash ©2002 by Stan Cherim
History of the Hash Disorganization by Mike Lyons
Elements of Hashing by Steve "Modess" Trinka
The Circle and the Spirit of Hashing ©1999 by Paul "Flying Booger" Woodford
Booger's Guide to Haring ©1999 by Paul "Flying Booger" Woodford
Deep Thoughts on Religion ©1999 by Flying Booger
Flintstones MIDI ©1998 by Blue Max Distribution
What I Like About Hashing ©1997 by Paul "Flying Booger" Woodford
The Lady in Red Speaks ©2005 by The Lady in Red
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