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SWP Again!

Our friend Horn-E had a Suspicious White Powder run-in with Cook County’s finest yesterday and posted this rant to the hash list:

When will the paranoia stop. No one is spreading handfuls of anthrax in the woods on trees and on the ground and all of the BC letters and F letters and checks etc.?

Horn-E here. Busted just before the finish of laying a Bushman Hash trail in the woods. We’ve only been laying trails in the woods in the Chicago area since 1978, our first hash. Duh!

Two citations requiring court appearances:

  • Polluting and littering: Subject was knowingly and willingly spreading a white powdery substance on the trails from a laundry detergent bottle at Linne Woods and Prairie.
  • Disorderly Conduct: Subject knowingly and willingly made an improper disturbance, breach of peace by spreading a white powdery substance on several trails at Linne Woods.

I was walking through the woods, about 90% finished laying trail when across the prairie comes a County police officer. “What are you doing?” I’ve had this happen before. A simple explanation of “laying trail for a running club. It is only flour” usually works with reasonable police officers. No real harm. Have a nice day.

He had to call it in. This situation went ballistic. Some woman called it in. “When will this paranoia stop. Just because you live next to the woods, doesn’t make them yours.” I digress.

Anyhow, he had to call it in to his boss. The dreaded White Shirt. Then we march a quarter mile across the prairie and we meet the boss. We’re giving you a citation. Hazmet was just about to be called out. That costs thousands of dollars. (It really doesn’t. It is in the March Madness in America. Basketball championships all over TV. All of the Hazmet people are sitting in a fire station watching basketball. They either sit there or go out on a call. They are getting paid either way. Same cost plus gas.) But again, I digress. They are there to stop terrorists like me setting a hash with flour.

But, I respect the police. They have to do what they have to do. It is the paranoid civilian who causes it all and the paranoid politicians and press that keep it up. Do you have a permit. A permit? We had four hounds today. Give me a break. Notify them. We’d have to do that so often they’d get pissed and ignore us. We tried that in Chicago. Just after 9/11. Let the local station know what we were doing. “Sounds like fun. Have a nice day.” A half hour later we had two hares spread eagled across the back of a squad car.

There were three officers involved with busting me. It took the one officer, (actually a nice guy when he figured out what it was about, but he was under orders. He drove me to the start of trail so I could send everyone off) then I stood in the cold for about 40 minutes so he could write the citations. He also had to confiscate my remaining flour and a piece of drywall used to make marks in the parking lot. Then as I ran off to get beer, he hung around looking over the parked cars. (I wonder why, but it is what it is).

Now I will have to get up in the middle of my night, cross half the urban area (probably over two hours) on public transit to go to a court hearing to defend myself or get fined some unknown outrageous sum for having a good time hashing. We are just so horrible for enjoying the woods in an unprescribed manner, in the woods instead of proscribed paved areas, in an unacceptable manner as prescribed in forty seven pages of regulations that no one understands.

Due to the paranoia of the sheltered masses, we get closer and closer to the day when we can take down our flag, cut off our now useless nuts, wrap them in a flag and mail it to ISIS telling them they win, we surrender, please spare us, we’ll convert.

Now I’m afraid to set our next scheduled woods runs. Next Fri, Next Sat. and because yesterdays trail was a monthly all woods hash, next month’s trail.

I remember right after 9/11, President Bush told us to go back to doing what we were doing. Well, we were hashing.

End of rant.

Many hashers assume our SWP problems started after September 11, 2001, but we had run-ins with the law before that. The first SWP incident I know of went down in the early 1990s, when residents of a predominantly black area in Dallas called the cops on white skinheads who were running through their neighborhood while shouting, throwing white powder, and targeting certain homes with chalk symbols. The skinheads, of course, were Dallas H3 hares, and all they were doing was marking trail.

Clearly, though, 9/11 made civilians and cops even more suspicious of strange people doing strange things with suspicious white powder and chalk, and we had so many encounters with the authorities I eventually quit writing about all but the most serious incidents, the ones where hashers actually get into legal trouble.

Like this incident. Horn-E’s been hashing longer than most of us put together, and I’m sure he can explain hashing to the judge, but the fact that he has to appear before a court in the first place is disturbing. All it takes is one do-it-by-the-books cop (or one asshole cop, assuming that’s two different things), and virtually everything we hashers do is technically illegal. Laying flour? Littering at the very least. Chalk marks? Defacing public property. Shouting “On On”? Disturbing the peace. Upsetting civilian onlookers? Ditto. Holding a circle and singing rude songs while drinking beer? Mega-ditto.

Horn-E is absolutely correct about the cost to the taxpayers. Cops, firefighters, and hazmat teams are drawing the same wages whether they’re sitting at the station or answering calls. He’s also right that notifying local cops and emergency responders before setting trails is largely a waste of time. Even if the authorities in your area know about the hash beforehand, they still have to respond when citizens freak out and dial 911, and if they get irritated enough, they can cause us all kind of problems, as they did a few years ago in New Haven, Connecticut.

And it wasn’t like Horn-E was making suspicious marks in a shopping mall or near a nuclear powerplant. He was in the fucking woods.

I guess what I’m saying is, stay on your toes. You never know when you’ll have an SWP encounter with law enforcement. When it happens, keep your cool at all costs. And let me know what happens, so I can help spread the word in the hashing community!

© 2016, Flying Booger. All rights reserved.


About Flying Booger  Hash House Harrier, man about town.


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