Boldly Going Nowhere

Thursday, August 3, 2006


Over the years, the British have given us cricket, snooker, darts and the American Revolution. Except for the revolution, their contributions to our way of life have been rather boring. Hashing is no exception.

In 1938, a bunch of British Army officers in colonial Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, formed a running club called the Hash House Harriers, named after their meeting place, the Selanger Club, nicknamed the "Hash House."

Their idea of a jolly good time consisted of a mixture of social mingling and athleticism. They devised "Hash House Harrier" runs whereby a lead "hare" (one of the officers) would be given a head start and mark his trail with shreds of paper. The remaining officers ("harriers") would follow the clues, shouting loudly along the way, destination unknown, until they reached the end of the trail where a tub of ice-cold beer awaited them.

The 1938 charter of the original Kuala Lampur Hash House Harriers contained the following goals:

* To promote physical fitness among our members.

* To get rid of weekend hangovers.

* To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer.

After World War II, "hashing" spread to the Far East, Australia and New Zealand, and gaining popularity in the 1970s. Today there are thousands of hashing clubs throughout the world, including the U.S.A., each with its own Internet Web site and newsletter. There are also regional and world hashing conventions.

A typical hashing club consists of 20-40 men and women who meet regularly to chase the hare. They follow trails of flour, chalk or paper (biodegradable material) and must deal with woods, hills, streams, cliffs, fences and even storm drains. Hashing in metropolitan areas is generally set up along streets and through alleyways.

In the Hash House Harrier tradition of running and partying, there's always cold brew at the end of the trail.

Basically, hashing is a social event for hoity-toity beer enthusiasts. In other words, it's a beer party, disguised as a sport, where participants work up a thirst by romping through the woods like a pack of crazed basset hounds.

A recent Internet search (Google) of hashing clubs generated 229,000 hits, including various directories of hashing clubs. However, I couldn't find any hashing clubs in my little corner of the world.

There are probably several good reasons why folks in northern Arkansas aren't into prancing through the countryside to down a beer.

First of all, a romp through some of the local countryside is also a romp through the homeland of many species of irritating creatures, such as spiders, ticks and chiggers. Having a cold beer at the end of a run sounds fine, but dealing with tiny, blood-sucking critters attached to various parts of your body is no fun at all. Stepping on a water moccasin or copperhead snake can potentially be a most unpleasant experience as well.

Northern Arkansas is also the home of some larger critters that attract sportsmen with deadly weapons, and running through hunting territory is not a wise move. For example, a hasher with girth could easily be mistaken for a wild boar, a tasty chunk of meat, especially if he or she tends to snort while thrashing through the wild.

Plus, you don't have to work very hard to build up a thirst for a cold beer in this part of the country -- all you have to do is step outside, particularly on a hot, humid summer afternoon, and walk out to the mailbox.

We have our own version of hashers around here. They do seem to enjoy their beer but don't care to do the running leading up to drinking it. Instead, they drive around in pickup trucks, with faulty mufflers so you can always hear them coming from far away in case you need to get out of the way, and drink beer on the move.

And instead of marking a trail with biodegradable material, they toss the empty beer cans out the window. This way, they've created a trail of beer cans in case they need to find their way back to wherever they came from.

Hashing may be a fine sport for elitists in trendy locales, but in these parts (dry counties) we're forbidden by law from indulging in evil beverages. Besides, we only run if we're chasing something or something is chasing us.

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Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels, which are available at He can be contacted at