Dallas Morning News
February 22, 1993

No Hate Intended

No hate intended - Runner says club spread flour trail

Runners club spread flour at black complex to make trail, man says

Dallas Morning News
Monday, February 22, 1993
By Nancy St. Pierre
Staff Writer of the Dallas Morning News

Delbert Hirst of Arlington 'fessed up Sunday. He was one of the white males seen spreading "white powder" Saturday throughout a predominantly black apartment complex in Old East Dallas.

He doesn't see anything wrong with it. He does things like that most weekends in similar areas of Fort Worth. He sees it as harmless fun.

Some people in Dallas, including police, were baffled by the mysterious action. The Police Department began investigation the incident as a possible hate crime.

"I was shocked so much was being made out of it," Mr. Hirst said Sunday. "I guess it just shows how sensitive things must really be over there when it comes to racial issues."

Mr. Hirst, 40, is part of an international "social" running group called the Hash House Harriers. The Dallas-Fort Worth chapter meets Saturdays, often to enjoy a human version of "the hare and the hound."

Police said Saturday that they were investigating the powder spreading as a hate crime "because the white males did this in Roseland Homes, which is predominantly black."

Police also sent out samples of the powder for testing. If Mr. Hirst is correct, the lab will find it is a substance common to kitchens and supermarkets: flour. The runners use it to make their trail.

The runners' fun turned serious Saturday, when residents of the apartments at 2100 North Washington Avenue told police that they thought Mr. Hirst and two other men were committing a hate crime.

Residents described the men as "skinheads" because of the "way they dress and because their heads were shaved," according to a police offense report.

The men put the powder in the grass, around the base of a tree, inside a tire where children play and in a tunnel area, residents told police. The men also handed beads to children and spread more powder on a nearby playground.

Residents told police that they believed the men were skinheads trying to poison children.

If that behavior wasn't strange enough, the men ran "through the complex chanting as though they were worshipping some type of god," the report read. One man even carried a shrunken head, residents told police.

The Hash House harriers act that way on purpose to blow off stress, Mr. Hirst said. They sometimes dress in outlandish costumes and run through neighborhoods, wooded areas and other parts of town to spice up their daily running routine.

"We can run on the street anytime," he said.

Mr. Hirst was one of three "hares" who scoped out a trail for the "hounds" to follow Saturday.

The hares were leading the group of 21 runners to the Mardi Gras parade on McKinney Avenue.

To mark a trail for the hounds to follow, the hares use flour to mark X's and other signs so that runners know they are on the trail, Mr. Hirst said.

As for the skinhead look, tow hares had military-style haircuts because they are National Guard members, Mr. Hirst said. The third man is balding naturally.

The chanting that was reposted was from runners yelling, "On! On!" to let stray runners know they were not on the trail and "Check!" when they reached a mark on the trail distinguishing a checkpoint, he said.

The shrunken head, it turns out, was a mannequin's head that one runner carries as a token. All members in the group have nicknames. The head-bearing runner, of course, is "Deadhead."

"We like to go to places we don't normally go," said Mr. Hirst, an Arlington landscape architect, "People usually avoid places and are afraid of areas where a lot of black people live. We weren't.

He said the group has run through the Como neighborhood in Fort Worth, a predominantly black section of town, as well as similar areas in east Fort Worth.

"And they love it," he said. "They laugh and think it's a parade because we're all dressed up."

As the Hash House group ran through Roseland Homes on Saturday, some runners handed children Mardi Gras beads as a gesture of friendship, Mr. Hirst said.

"I was incredulous that an innocent group like ours would get that kind of reaction," Hash House member Robin Doglio said. "It really underscores the racial tensions in Dallas."

Detective Stan Southall said the explanation sounds plausible, but the department's Intelligence unit will continue to investigate to make sure Mr. Hirst's story checks out.

"I'm not surprised of the conclusion jumped to by everybody, given the recent past history of events," he said.

"But the story did make my day."

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