Making a beer run
members take partying in stride
By Leif B. Strickland / The Dallas Morning News
With the sun melting over one horizon and the moon
rising from the other, 40 bug-bitten, mud-caked,
foul-mouthed Hashers dashed along a dirt road. The
group had just finished a cooler of beer, and now
they were back on trail.
"On-on!" a couple of voices echoed.
Still dripping with river water, Cali
Kaiser-Rivers watched the front-runners disappear
into the thicket about 100 yards ahead. They would
reach the end at least an hour before her, but that
didn't matter. This wasn't about winners and losers.
"It's about the beer," she admitted.
"It's all about the beer."
And soon enough, on a dusty mesa overlooking a
Farmers Branch industrial park, the guzzling began.
For the prim and proper, the run-and-booze
experience would be a nightmare. For local members of
the Hash House Harriers, an international
"drinking club with a running problem," it
was a typical Monday night.
Every week, the men and women - mostly in their
30s - traverse three to eight miles of varying
terrain to reach a keg. There, at what they call a
"Down-Down," they sing, drink dirt-cheap
beer and act like animals.
It's a combination of cross-country trekking,
juvenile troublemaking and Animal House-like
partying. And it attracts people of all sorts, from
couch potatoes to marathon runners and hard-core
partiers to demure social drinkers.
Of 150 members in North Texas, "we've got
doctors, lawyers, executives, a mailman, grocery
store clerks, computer and aerospace people - the
whole social gamut," said Chip Vokey, a
particularly energetic member. "By and large,
we're a pretty intellectually advanced group."
"We just don't act like it," Chris
Flynn, the group's leader (or, in Hash-speak,
Grandmaster), jumped in. "For many people, it's
an escape. We can be as childish and ridiculous as we
want. It's just about being yourself - or an extreme
"You take on an alter ego."
Hence the Hashers' nicknames, most of which are
too raunchy to make it onto these pages.
Hashing started in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in the
1930s, the invention of bored British soldiers. The
idea was to make exercising fun, mainly by adding
Each week, a couple of members served as the
"hares." They mapped a trail, often through
less-than-sterile territory. Along the way, they left
a series of markings with flour to guide the group.
Dots meant a person was on trail; X's meant the trail
diverged in any direction; and an equal sign showed
the runners that they were going the wrong way.
"Are you?" is what they would yell to
see if anyone was on trail, to which
"on-on" was the desired answer. "False
trail" meant someone had found an equal sign.
In those early days, the Brits always ended their
runs at a restaurant that, because of the bad food,
they called the "Hash House." Onto that
moniker they slapped "Harriers," the
British term for cross-country runners (after the
harrier dog). The name - and rules - have stuck.
How hashing spread from that group in Kuala Lumpur
in the 1930s to an estimated 300,000 people worldwide
in 1999 - and, for that matter, how much of the Hash
House lore is actually true - is up for speculation.
Each city has its own variation on the original
theme, said Tricia Broyles, known to her hashing
buddies as Jessica Rabbit, after the voluptuous
redhead in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
In New York, where Ms. Broyles first got into the
Hash, nicknames aren't used, and the entire ceremony
is much more prim and proper. The Yankee Hashers
might drink a beer or two after a run through the
park and then go home, she said.
The Dallas and Fort Worth chapters are wilder. Ten
beers per person is not out of character for a
typical down-down, although some take it easy so they
can drive the others home.
And in these parts, many think that the messier
the trail, the better.
"I've been on runs where it seems like I'm
going through the set of some Chuck Norris Vietnam
movie," Mr. Vokey said.
"I've been on runs where you're going through
water and then suddenly you're sprinting through
malls," Harold Ikerd said.
And one time, Eric Peacock, 25, said, "we
ended up in Emmitt Smith's back yard."
Several hashes have drawn open-mouth stares from
observers, such as last spring's Elvis Run. (Several
Hashers were in full King garb.) Only one run,
though, has resulted in any real controversy, members
In February 1993, two hares plotted a course
through a predominantly black Old East Dallas
neighborhood. Residents later told police that a hate
crime had occurred, saying that a group of white
people, some with short-cropped hair, placed an
unknown white powder on the sidewalks and then,
according to a police report, ran by "chanting
as though they were worshiping some kind of
After talking to several Hashers and sending the
flour off to a lab to be tested, police dropped the
Other runs have led to minor run-ins with (or runs
from) police, but usually over nothing more than
On Monday, the hashers managed to stay out of
trouble during their trek across a 300-acre plot of
undeveloped private land bisected by the Trinity
River. The directions on the Harriers' Web page and
voice mail instructed people to arrive at an
industrial park off Luna Road in Farmers Branch
around 7 p.m. - and to bring "flashlights,
machetes, ice axes, climbing ropes, painkillers, body
armor, fins and goggles."
Most of the 40 or so hashers arrived in shorts or
camouflage pants with T-shirts. Only a few carried
After a half-hour of Frisbee and chatter, the
Hashers gathered in a circle for pre-run ceremonies.
They sang some nasty songs and chanted some nasty
And then they were off.
"On-on is that way!" shouted Mr.
Peacock, one of the evening's co-hares, pointing
toward a ridge about 100 yards away. Judging by the
stains on his pants, several Hashers predicted as
they dashed away that they were in for a sloppy
It didn't start that way; the first 10 minutes
were on a dirt road through open fields. But then
there was a water crossing: a 10-foot-wide creek
that, despite its puny appearance, was about 4
1/2-feet deep, lined with sticky mud.
The water was tepid.
From there, the trail, scouted out by the FRBs -
the Front-Running Bastards - crossed a dense field of
6-foot-tall sprouts that looked like a pea-plant
experiment gone wrong. Fifteen minutes later came the
first major obstacle: an arrow on the bank of the
Trinity pointing to the other side.
Without trepidation, most jumped right in.
"Admit it," Mr. Vokey yelled to a
first-time hasher (a "new boot"), as he
treaded along. "You're hooked."
Patricia Brown, a.k.a. Photo Spread, didn't see it
that way. "Once again, we're on a trail from
hell," she told a couple of friends at the Beer
Check, a halfway point where Hashers drink booze,
water or soda before getting back on trail.
A couple hours later, though, whatever woes the
hashers might have had about the night's particularly
challenging trail were forgotten.
The down-down had begun.
Standing in a circle, the hashers gathered around
Mr. Flynn, the Grandmaster, with beers in hand. Then
the Grandmaster found reasons to call people to the
middle - coming in first, wearing new shoes, laying a
hellish trail, being a new member. Each offense
required the downing of one beer.
And if the plastic cup left offenders' lips, it
went on their heads.
John Fleisher, a new boot, couldn't finish his
brew. His long hair, held back with a rubber band,
"I'm a sky diver, and sky divers are a rowdy
bunch," Mr. Fleisher said. "But these guys
are nuts. I'm going to have to practice drinking
before coming back."
In the end, Mr. Flynn said, it's about more than
just drinking beer. He was introduced to the group 10
years ago by a "250-pound co-worker named 'Irish
Potato,' " and from that moment on, he has been
a changed man.
"I was like, 'Where the hell has this been my
whole life?' This is where I'm supposed to be. Dallas
is such a pretentious, materialistic place, and here
you can get away from all of that."
And with that thought, he raised his cup to his
lips, chugging beer among his "40 closest
friends" under the glare of the almost-full
©1999 The Dallas Morning News