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Hash House Harriers, 2011 Edition

One Perspective of Hash House Harriers

"Hashing is a state of mind- a friendship of kindred spirits joined together for the sole purpose of reliving their childhood or fraternity days, releasing the tensions of everyday life, and generally, acting a fool amongst others who will not judge you or measure you by anything more than your sense of humor."
Stray Dog

While stationed with the Army in Okinawa in 1982, my commander, Uchi Mata, returned from the weekend spreading the gospel of the Hash House Harriers and promise of a running adventure. I put it off for several weeks (like many non-hashers, I thought it was a group of ‘super runners'), but I came out one Saturday in July for my first "Hash". It was a long, hot, poorly-marked trail which had the 30 to 40 member Pack strung out for miles by the time the first parched, front-running bastard (FRB) came into the finish.

Yet, I was hooked for life!
In that year and a half in the Okinawa Hash, I lost 20 pounds, won some age categories in races, caught nine sets of hares and hared eight times without being caught. I credited (or blamed) the Hash for my personal successes, but the truth is, I found out that running can be made fun again by turning it into a game with friends who encourage your every effort. Though such competition is frowned upon in the hash itself, these successes were a measurement of the subtle effects hashing can have on your whole life.

Be young again . . .
When we were kids we ran all the time and thought nothing of it. We did not yet know that running was supposed to be hard work, so we ran and had fun doing it. I think the Hash brought the fun back into my running and that was the key to my newly found success. If you enjoy what you are doing, you will do more of it. I found myself running six to ten miles or more daily- practicing possible trails, just getting in better shape so I could get closer to catching the hare the next Saturday or get away if haring.

Hashtory . . .
The Hash House Harriers began amongst some British in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Though one post war chapter was founded in Italy in 1949 and promptly died, it was not until the 60's that hashing began to spread beyond the jungle rubber plantations to the rest of the world. The biggest spurt began in the early eighties and it has mushroomed ever since. A detailed treatment of the history of the hash is covered in a later chapter. As this is the forward to the Hash Bible, I will begin here with my personal hash history and the roots of a style of hashing that is responsible for hundreds of hashes spread around the world, as well as the birth of these books.

On the Okinawa Style . . .
Developed in some isolation and nurtured by the fever of its membership, the Okinawa style of hashing is a vibrant bastard child of the sport. Though this East Asian form began in some isolation and of questionable ancestry in Taiwan, it was fortunately carried across the sea to Okinawa by Dal Jock Trader. After an abortive effort in Naha in 1979, the current Okinawa HHH run #1 began in Spring of 1980 according to records provided me as Okinawa On-Sec. This was later confirmed by Jock himself in correspondence with him in Southern California where he finally settled. It was the beginning of a style of hashing that would later spread around the world with its members becoming the Johnny Appleseeds of hashing - Okinawa Style. As one Okinawa hasher stated in the nineties when promoting an Okinawa reunion interhash as a prelewd to InterAmericas Hash:

    "Most of you (American hashes) can probably trace your roots back to us (Okinawa)."

Growing to sometimes 150 runners each hash, and having members who went literally around the world due to their occupations, taking that tradition with them and starting new hashes, Okinawa has been a significant hash expansion factor indeed. I myself, in my hashing on three continents, have seen evidence of the Okinawa style in first, second and third generation hashes started by these hashers, recognizable in the traditions of trail, down down, and mismanagement styles, although sometimes the hashes themselves sometimes do not realize their roots.

Birth of the Trail Manual . . .

Haring and becoming On-Sec for the Okinawa HHH brought me into regular contact with Milt Ichabody Crane Halleran, the expatriate Joint Hash Master at that time. Ichabody Crane (who would later found the Samarai HHH as Uncle Milty) did much to make the runs more enjoyable by writing a hashing and trail-marking guidelines sheet. He did this to train hares, help newer and slower runners complete the run and to bring consistency to the weekly trail. With confusion brought to a minimum, the Pack grew to over a hundred hashers. Hares were awarded down-downs (a chug-a-lug of a beer or soda) only when their efforts were poor. Really bad trails resulted in the drowning of the Hares at the On-In (the finish point and social gathering of the run). Children, older adults, and weaker runners no longer feared joining us, with most trails longer than 10K provided with shorter and easier branches (or Wimp trails).

Ichabody Crane and other members of that day helped to cement the tradition of a mixed-sex, live-hare Hash that has become known in many parts as the Okinawan Style. This style was developed with an eye on keeping the sport simple, safe and enjoyable. From the Mother Hash in Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong to Taiwan to Okinawa, the markings remained simple, with only some variation from the original to prevent confusion and bring more clarity to the hash trail. Okinawan hashers have spread this style since then by starting hundreds of hashes worldwide either directly or through the generations from hashers spawned from hashes started by those Okinawa members. I have started over a dozen hashes on three continents (with a few still thriving) and have recognized the Okinawan style at dozens around the globe. Sadly, a few groups founded by our peers have deteriorated into dead-hare hashes over the years because the founders left or became old or lazy. Some of this is due to a failure to set up guidelines for the hares to follow that would make live-hare more appealing.

The Hash Bible was developed slowly . . .

I felt that, as much as I moved around, I should leave a legacy that could be passed on by the mismanagment when I left a hash that I founded. Not rules, by all means! But some traditions and guidelines based on my experience used to help carry on the live hare tradition that has evolved from my Okinawan roots. This was why I took out the old Radio Shack Model I computer and wrote up a more comprehensive version of Ichabody Crane's guidelines when I founded the Huachuca HHH in Arizona in '85. I have used this Hash Manual, modified slightly over the years, at every hash since, in order to put into writing the mainstream style of live hare hashing. This later began to be passed around by hashers to other groups around the world. Structure and traditions were added to provide hashers with a foundation from which they may start their own hash. As they found themselves at some place geographically isolated from the hash world, they had this work to fall back on.

Stray Dog's Manual for Live Hare was written to pass this style on as it has evolved over the years. I hesitate to use the word ‘Manual' when referring to this effort, for as every hasher will exclaim, "THERE ARE NO RULES IN THE HASH!". However, my experience has taught me that there is a need for a few traditions to help prevent disastrous trails and keep the Pack happy and coming back for more.

    "It (the Hash Bible) was never intended to be a rulebook used to govern the hash world,as some naysayers have rumored over the years (and a few anal types have wanted), but more of a starting point from which hash traditions may evolve."

The Hash Bible was the natural extension of this work, which began its existence in 1993 as a book distributed locally in Europe, then in 1994 the 2nd edition was distributed to the world. It included not only the live hare manual, but a brief history, info about the hash and anecdotes called The Hash House Harriers, a new Book of the Dead Hare providing trail ideas for the other half who pre-lay hash trails, Hash Verses for the RA, the world directory was taken from the new magazine Global Trash as the Hash Roster, and the Hash Hymnal was taken from accumulated hash songbooks I had collected and made for my local hashes. It was never intended to be a rulebook used to governed the hash world, as some naysayers have rumored over the years (and a few anal types have wanted), but more of a starting point from which hash traditions may evolve. Because every hash develops their own traditions over the years at the whim of the pack and/or due to local climatic and political conditions, the Hash Bible offered a good start. In a club where the Whim of the Pack is the final rule and the only entrance qualification is possession of a ‘sense of humor', things can sometimes get carried away (especially by nervous hares). So the Hash Bible provides some good advice, as well as enough information to start your own live-hare, dead hare or hybrid hash.

The Hash Roster began as an address/phone list I began putting together on other hashes before I left Okinawa in 1983. By 1985, while in the Huachuca HHH, I learned of more hashes and the list began to grow with some phone numbers, addresses, etc., collected up from hashers I met here and there. The InterHASHional News, the first well-distributed international hash publication, came to my attention a little later. It is important to note here that Patchwork Quilt and his successors over the years had the first well-distributed hash directory. I saw my first Harrier International later while in the Ozark HHH in Missouri in the late eighties. It was not until the nineties that I ran across a copy of Magic's World HHH Handbook and Directory published by him under the Harrier International banner. However, I quickly realized that this work was usually quite dated. Having collected quite a few contacts in Asia, the Americas and Europe, I decided that the first Hash Roster would include only tried and true contacts (even then I had a few outdated ones myself). While at the London 1000th, I was told that there had been no editions of the Harrier International for quite sometime. Rumor had it that Magic had quit due to health reasons, some said his heart (which later turned out to be the cause of his death). The first world distributed Hash Roster came out in the first Global Trash magazine in September of 1993. This fledgling effort started the hard work, mailouts, phone calls, email queries, travels and web site forms that were used to develop the roster you see today - which is the largest and most comprehensive Hash House Harriers directory you can find on the internet or in hard copy. I started it out as a mere contact list for my own readers, not wanting to compete with Magic's more comprehensive work. But after Magic went three years without a directory, I began distributing it as a separate book and started making it a more comprehensive reference. The result is what you see here today. Again, despite rumors, I built it from direct hash or interhasher feedback, not from copying from Magic nor InterHASHional News. I felt that I owed it to my readers to be more accurate than those sources were at that time and my work paid off. In fact, near its demise, Mr. Spock of InterHASHional News used data dumps from me for the America's directory, claiming better accuracy. Now the Hash Roster is like a mini-bible, with some good hash information as well as a directory and a fitting replacement for the old HI handbook and directory and Global Trash publishes the InterHASHional News and its directory outright.

On Dead Hare . . .

Recognizing roughly half the hash world presets its trails, in the early ‘90's, I began an effort to set down a journal of markings and traditions I have seen while interhashing with these groups over the years. It became the Book of the Dead Hare. From my experience of a couple hundred of these dead hare hashes over the years, it was quite useful for the other half. However, by their very nature, many of the markings in the dead hare hashes are designed to keep the pack together and promote a social gathering, thus they would unfairly impede the pack in pursuit of a live hare and have no place on live hare trails.

Arguments for the dead hare style of hashing are quite appealing. First, the emphasis is on the social aspects of hashing, rather than the more athletic competition of pursuing the hare (competition being somewhat shunned in the hash). The packs of dead hare hashes tend to stay together more (holding checks and holding style markings aid this). As they gather, they may sing or otherwise make fools of themselves as befitting hashers and the pack will tend to finish together, usually starting the down-down without delay. Since the pack is gathered periodically and there are ability groupings, such as boob checks or age checks, almost anyone in the pack would have an opportunity to clear a check (and equally, do a false trail) occasionally. Whereas, live hare hashers tend to run in smaller ability packs and the slower hashers will already find the checks cleared (and in the case of many hashes have the correct direction marked at each check).

Sorting Out the Myth . . .

The first hash was indeed live hare. I ran periodically with Tony Fruit 'n' Nut Case at interhashes while in Europe. He was in the Mother Hash before it began to spread in the early '60's (later founding hashes himself). He assured me that when he ran with them they were still live hare. I have had that confirmed by other older hashers over the years since. The picture given me was that the hares were never caught or rarely, as the head start times were usually longer in those days and the markings more sparse. A check originally simply meant that the pack lost scent (paper) and branched out to find trail. It has also been brought to my attention that in later years you could find a dead hare trail even at the Mother Hash. However, live hare has made a comeback and now makes up over half of the world's hashes.

Live or Dead?

The truth is, regardless of the method of trail marking or the position of the hare in front of, with or behind the pack, all of these traditions are "Hashing". Though it is sometimes hard for me to admit it (originally being a very vocal advocate of live hare), the trail has nothing to do with Hashing. It is simply the excuse for gathering the pack together. In this spirit, beginning with the seventh edition of the bible and roster, I now have one Harrier Trail Manual, one book, in which both styles are presented. Marking more appropriate to live hare is mentioned in a separate, standard markings section, so that live hare hashes will not be confused into adapting markings not fair to the pack in their pursuit of the hare.

Hashing is a state of mind- a friendship of kindred spirits joined together for the sole purpose of reliving their childhood or fraternity days, releasing the tensions of everyday life, and generally, acting a fool amongst others who will not judge you or measure you by anything more than your sense of humor. College professors or students, colonels or privates, managers or assembly line workers, engineers or technicians, doctors or plumbers - all are gathered together without concern for social status or education. They gather for the sport and the comradery and take on a new personality- for they are now...

Cheers and On On!
Stray Dog

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