You might not know it, but Tulsa is home to a secret society of hashers. To those not in the know, this may sound like some kind of criminal activity -- but hashing isn't about doing something illegal. It's about having fun while drinking beer and getting some exercise in-between.
In 1938, hashing was brought to life in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia by a group of British colonial officials who wanted to start a running club. They called themselves the "Hash House Harriers," named after their meeting place, The Selangor Club, better known as the Hash House. To blaze the trails, the Hash House Harriers' runs were designed after a British paper chase.
The key players during these runs went by two names: hare and harriers. The hares, the leaders, were given a few minutes' head start to mark the trails with shreds of paper, and the others, the pack, would chase them down. The hare is the only member in the group who knows exactly where he (or she) is going. And to stay on the right track, the harriers have to follow his clues.
Today's typical hash event is made up of roughly 20-40 people who meet weekly and chase down their hare. In order to find the way, flour marks the path. Harriers will run down streets, scale hills, walk through murky water and climb fences to get where they need to be.
At the end, they are met with coolers packed with delicious beer and a celebration. If you are intrigued by what was just stated, know that Tulsa has been the home of the Tulsa Hash House Harriers since 1992, and they show no sign of stopping.
To get involved with the Tulsa Hashers, one must be invited -- and getting invited can be hard. Then even when invited, some find the experience distasteful.
"Hashing is a secret because it doesn't fit with 'expected' behavior," said "Bluebeard," a member of the Tulsa Hashers since 2008. "Our hashing club involves drinking, lewd, rude, intentionally politically-incorrect talk and gestures, bawdy songs, mock religious ceremonies, mixed with runs through areas where few "normal" people venture (unless they're paid to go there) such as storm drains, hobo camps, medians of divided highways, and railroad tracks; it's not exactly a mainstream activity and, frankly, not for everyone," Bluebeard said.
It should also be noted that if you are easily offended, then you should stay as far away as possible. "Among ourselves we try to insult everybody," Bluebeard said. "Since what we do is unusual, many people would think it is dangerous or suspicious and shouldn't be allowed; not only would they not like it, but would be actively hostile."
If you do enjoy getting rowdy and having some dirty fun, then hashing just might be up your alley. But one thing this hashing group doesn't like is illegal activity. "The ones who aren't wanted are those with no sense of humor, inflated sense of importance, and/or a pathological need to tell others what to do," Bluebeard said. But he was also quick to point out that "(d)oing blatantly illegal and stupid things at hash, like inviting underage kids and giving them alcohol, isn't tolerated."
Hashers discourage the use of real names. In most chapters, members are given hash names, which are decided upon when the group learns about escapades, or a personality trait is revealed or some aspect of their physical appearance can't be ignored. In some cases, names must be earned: which means that hashers aren't named until they've proven to warrant one.
When asked about his name, Bluebeard replied in short order: "My name is Bluebeard," he said. "Don't ask why; it involves Australians."
In some chapters, names aren't given out until a certain number of events are under their belts. "Getting your hash name is a sign that the hash accepts you as a member," said the treasurer of Tulsa Hash, who goes by the moniker "Cherry Popper." "It's also because a lot of us hold respectable jobs (lawyer, teacher, doctor, etc.) and like to separate our hashing lives from our real lives."
There are a vast variety of trails -- and the hare decides which ones are taken. "Trails can lead anywhere," Bluebeard said: "downtown alleys, streets, parks, parking lots, culverts, forests, snowbanks (corn meal works better than flour for marking trail in snow), road construction sites, out of the way places. The best trails take you places where you see what most people never do."
Another key in finding the right place is finding one that doesn't bring attention to the group. "We generally try to meet in places where we won't attract too much attention to ourselves when we're standing around drinking beer before trail," Bluebeard said. And they like to find spots where others can't hear them -- "out of earshot of civilians (especially kids)," Bluebeard said, "for the ceremonial singing of mostly recycled rugby songs afterwards. We really don't want to piss people off; that will just make things bad for us."
In most runs, special markings are used to indicate when you are heading in the wrong direction, into a shortcut or a check. With a check, hashers must search high and low to find the trail again. In a beer check, hashers have the opportunity to consume water, snacks or beers. This also allows stragglers to catch up with everyone else.
After running or walking a long distance, the hashers end with a celebration and a group gathering, which is known as the "Circle." Led by the chapter leader, the Circle brings everyone together to sing songs and inform the group of any upcoming events. Customarily, individuals are recognized for their good deeds -- or for their misfortunes (known as "down-downs"). Anyone brought into question is asked to consume his or her drink. And without missing a beat, one then dumps his cup over his head to prove that thirst has been quenched.
"Hashing is fun, Bluebeard said. "It gets me out of the house with people that I like outside my everyday group, and see new places in my own backyard. The trail is always my favorite part; others like the ceremonies more." And no matter where you are in the world, you know you can find another club.
"I travel for work some," Bluebeard said, "and if there's one nearby that's convenient and I have free time, I try to make that. It makes for interesting variety since all the hashes are different."
Such traditions are a great part of the draw of this club -- what brings the local group, and the wider hashing movement, so close to hashers' hearts.
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