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Half-Mind Interview: Stray Dog

Veteran hashers know my relationship with Stray Dog has been a rocky one, full of conflict and mutual animosity. Newer hashers are happily ignorant of this unseemliness: he and I haven’t mixed it up in years, and Stray Dog, once a major online presence in the hashing world, has by his own choice largely dropped off the map … so much so, in fact, that I now get a steady stream of emails from hashers asking if I know what’s become of Stray Dog.

I was curious too, so I attempted to track him down. If you enter any of his former website URLs (gthhh.com, worldhhh.com, hhhweb.com, worldhashspace.com) into a browser, you’ll be redirected to worldharrierorganization.com. The new site, which superficially resembles the old ones, represents the World Harrier Organization, which Stray Dog characterizes as “a loose association of friendly groups or clubs who practice the sport of hare and hounds.” He goes on to define it as “a more universal treatment of the sport than is usually expressed in other associations of hare and hounds, such the Hash House Harriers … [w]e encourage all types of groups in our association as long as they are generally comfortable with our creed … [w]e do not, like the HHH, require any social liturgy (i.e. the Down Down) nor do we frown on hare and hounds groups who have a competitive nature.”

Well, that piqued my curiosity, as you might imagine, so I asked him to tell me about the World Harrier Organization and, while he was at it, fill out an interview questionnaire. I promised to publish his comments and remarks as written, and he agreed.

Some hashers have jokingly(?) suggested Stray Dog and I are actually the same person; that I made him up, or vice-versa. No, we are very different people, but surprise of surprises, I actually agree with much of what he says here.

Let’s get to it, shall we?


Stray Dog’s hashing biography:

  • Name: Larry “Stray Dog” McDowell
  • Where you’re from: Birmingham, Alabama, USA
  • Where you currently live: Birmingham, Alabama
  • Current hash kennel(s): Birmingham Magic City Harriers
  • Number of years hashing: 34
  • What mismanagement positions have you held? All of them
  • Have you founded any hashes? Where? Which ones?
    • Namsan HHH, Seoul, Korea (dead)
    • Huachuca HHH, Sierra Vista, AZ, USA (lives)
    • Augusta HHH, Augusta, GA, USA (dead)
    • Ozark HHH, Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, USA (dead) Rolla HHH, Rolla, MO, USA (dead)
    • Mannheim HHH, Mannheim, MO (dead) German Bashers, Germany (dead)
    • Global Trash HHH, literally held around the world (lives, now World Harrier Organization)
    • Alabama Interhash, AL, USA (lives)
    • USA Nash Hash, USA (lives)
    • Birmingham HHH, Birmingham, AL, USA (lives)
    • Louisiana HHH, Baton Rouge, LA, USA (dead)
    • Jiangmen HHH, Jiangmen, Guangdong, China
  • What hash traditions do you come from?
    • Mixed
    • Live hare
    • Both A-to-A trails and A-to-B trails
    • Singing at the circle

Stray Dog’s commentary:

Stray DogI always tended in the past to look at most of your efforts at communicating with me with caution, considering all the effort you have made in the past to trash me personally to your readership. However, forgive and forget is now my motto, as I am a different person in many ways. If my comments below to your readers, amongst whom are probably friends of mine, have the smallest impact on people rethinking the direction of hashing, which is killing this sport, it would be worth it. But, since some of your readers are the cause of the decline, I will not hold out hope.

I will answer your canned questions, below, but I first want to comment on W.H.O., since you are curious as to what happened to me.

The World Harrier Organization is not a hash organization as such, though it represents those groups in its directory as a base. W.H.O. is about hare and hounds, the “paper chase” if you will—the sport as it was originally practiced. However, I accept any hare and hounds group that finds some common ground with our creed. It is about a gathering of people who enjoy the sport of chasing a hare in an intricate web of a trail full of true and false directions, with a bit of social activity at the end. Trails once were well practiced and thought out, fun and many times surprising. Social activity was simply friends who share these 5-10 km average trails, a little refreshment, recognizing each other’s achievements and perhaps a bit of singing afterwards.

What it has become over the last two decades for a majority of the groups in the U.S., and some elsewhere, is a walking, slow jogging beer drinking club following a pre-laid trail of 1 to 3 miles as an excuse to gather for a fraternity-like hazing, adult entertainment and debauchery.

When I first began with the Okinawa Hash House Harriers, it was a family sporting event with minimal social activity, much in line with hounds and hares activities historically. My nine year old daughter and 11 year old son started with me, running the 6 to 12 km trails. I think even by the time you came on board in Okinawa it had already begun a shift to more of an adult social event, but certainly it evolved as such to the point where my last correspondence a few years ago suggested I could not hold an event there because few could support it. I was told the Okinawa Hash House Harriers group had gotten into such trouble local commanders banned it and they attend. Those comments from Okinawa came shortly after I received similar comments from Germany, so I shut down the idea of a world event and began rethinking the hash altogether. When someone decided to take out my server once again and destroy my database at the turn of this decade, I took a long break from supporting the hash altogether.

I am now, slowly, as I have time, rebuilding the site for the World Harrier Organization, dedicating it to all hare and hounds groups: hash house harriers, competitive running versions or otherwise. It is far from being completed and still needs work. However, in my efforts to rewrite the “manual,” which is what the Hash Bible started out as originally, I have decided to emphasize the historical, cleaner version of hare and hounds. That is what the World Harrier Organization is built to do—influence hashers and other harriers to return to their roots, where beer is a refreshment, not the point of the sport.

That said, like many renowned or infamous harriers before me, I no longer drink—not out of a need due to alcoholism or a medical condition, but out of choice. I am currently a seminary graduate student studying to become a Baptist minister and possibly a missionary (I know, a late move in life). So, W.H.O. better fits a lifestyle of the role I am currently pursuing. I have a past that certainly borders on many of the activities I now shun, so I will not become a hypocrite now about it. But, unlike most in the sport today, I have been friends with and interviewed several members of the old Mother hash who were active in it as far back as 1962, when it was a gentleman’s sporting event, with a little social gathering afterwards—when it had live trails per tradition. I know what G intended the sport of the Hash House Harriers to be, and believe me, most groups don’t support that vision today. Summarizing, I will paraphrase (as I do not remember the exact working) what a previous GM of the Mother Hash I spoke with told me at the IAH in Orlando, “I was somewhat disappointed coming here, but this is not how we lay trails or act back home. I really believe we need a world organization to put the Hash House Harriers back on track.” While I disagreed then and now about that, I do believe that guidance from a confederation of groups like W.H.O., while maintaining local independence, is good to reenergize the original model of hare and hounds the way the hash founder(s) intended.

The W.H.O. website has a long way to go, before it reaches the same level that the old site had. It will take me to the end of the year to complete it, due to my seminary studies (which are quite difficult). However, I hope it is a place of light, in what is becoming an ever darkening hash universe, for those who simply want to enjoy the hare and hounds sport.

You can post the above as you want, or not. I am sure it would raise a lot of eyebrows to those who like its current direction. Answers to your questions below …

On On!
Stray Dog

Stray Dog’s interview questionnaire:

When & where was your first hash?

Okinawa HHH, Japan July 1982.

How did you find the hash, or did the hash find you?

Members of my Army unit.

How did you get your hash name?

Straying from the trail five out of the first six runs attempting to catch a hare.

Did you have a hashing mentor? Who?

Ichabody Crane (later known as Uncle Milty).

When & where was your first away hash?

Belleville-St. Louis HHH.

Where have you hashed?

Member of a score of hashes on my travels, but attended over a couple hundred different groups on four continents.

Are there places you haven’t hashed but would like to?

I just run where my travels take me. You always have a friend with harrier groups.

Are there places you wouldn’t consider hashing?

Those run by dictators or cliques—don’t find them very friendly. Only the democratic groups tend to be friendly.

Do you have any favorite haring techniques?

Practice, practice and more practice.

What’s the best thing that ever happened to you at a hash?

Nothing specific, just enjoyed a lot of good friendships made over the years.

What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you at a hash?

Watching an RA belittle and badger a virgin and insult a possible new member from the Mother Hash in the same circle. The virgin was in tears later and I consoled both her and the other guy, but neither returned.

What is the most dangerous trail you’ve done?

Several night trails in Orlando with the Mosquito County HHH through swamps without a flashlight—can I say gators.

What has been your most remarkable hashing experience?

Hashing in Germany with the abundance of woods, vineyards and other trails. Certainly, it is the most beautiful area for hashing I have ever lived.

If you could pick the location of a future Interhash, where would it be, and why?

Interhash should go to the U.S. as the nation with the most number of groups, but it never will. Interhash has become a regional Asian event for the most part, and historically.  It is not truly a world event.

What do you most love about hashing? What keeps you coming back?

I enjoy the sport of hare and hounds, chasing a hare through a well-designed, intricate web of trails and false trails to the finish. But what I love most are the friends I have met along the way.

What part of hashing could you do without (if anything)?

The hazing and debauchery that the Down Down has become over the last three decades.

Have your attitudes toward hashing or hashers changed over the years?

I have decided instead of, like many disgruntled old-timers, going with the flow, I will only attend friendly events and groups along the more traditional lines. I was very pleased with I toured hashes in Southern China, Macau and Hong Kong in recent years and found the old traditions still alive and friendly. As my fellow Americans are prone to do, they have destroyed those traditions to make it into their own image, and it is not good.

Has hashing affected your personal or professional life (for good or ill)?

I have always kept my hashing and professional life separate.  I have changed my personal life and professional live most recently, thus I have changed my tastes in hare and hounds to a milder, less social, and more traditional sport.

Do you tell everyone you meet about the hash, or only people you think might become good hashers?

I used to, until it went way too far out there.

Are there certain things you believe all hashers should believe in?

Good trail, good refreshment, and good friends, the rest can take care of itself.

What do you think you’ve contributed to hashing?

Over a dozen groups and scores of events hosted/founded around the world, both hard copy and web books and resources, the largest and best directory for almost two decades, and hundreds of trails laid, and website which once had over 30,000 registered members.

What’s in your hashing future?

I have no future in hashing per se, however I am making a retry at creating a website to support them and other hare and hounds clubs through the World Harrier Organization. I hope to have it completed by the end of the year.

Back to Booger’s Half-Mind Interviews

© 2016, Flying Booger. All rights reserved.


About Flying Booger  Hash House Harrier, man about town.


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18 comments to Half-Mind Interview: Stray Dog

  • Interesting, to say the least. And reported without I’ll will. Good for you both.

  • BURT

    This was very interesting. If it’s true it certainly reflects a very very different Stray Dog than the one who was so prevalent on Hash-L in the old days. You know I consider trying to make the hash mainstream and especially on social media a huge mistake.

  • Great bold choice. Excellent article and comments. On On to (Father?) SD!

  • Great read. Thanks for sharing. I’m thrilled that the rhetoric between hou two has calmed down.

  • *you two
    McPisser recently posted…Houston H3 Art Car Crew!My Profile

  • Victoria

    He has a point a lot has changed in the last 15 years since I started and it is not all for the better.

  • I agree with the Dawg. Mosquito County H3 is the most dangerous but also the most adventerous I have ever attended!

  • Now I believe peace is possible between Isreal and the Palestinians
    Best wishes Stray Dog

  • Hangman

    I have to agree with SD. I also started hashing 34 years ago, have hashed on several continents and at several regional events. I have seen the decline of hashing (in the US) into little more than an alcohol chugging contest. I’m not against drinking, I do it when I can, but that’s not hashing. It never has been. It’s time to get back to the roots.

    I’ll go back to gumming my gruel now….

    On On

    Hangman

  • Bruce Gulde

    Interesting.

  • If you remember me I was hash master at Tampa for years until I moved. Candy Wrapper I helped name her along with the rest of the group, because your son was Nose Candy who was dating her at the time. We ran things pretty close to the old ways, because Paladin started Tampa. We were a running group, live trails always. Went back in 2008,and out of say 20 hashers, probably 6 of us actually ran trail while the rest walked and drank beer. It seems most groups in florida that use to run, the majority walks. I’ve been in Tidewater since 2001 left for 3 years and I’m back. It lays live trails always. The ones that walk are ones that really can’t run, like myself, with a partial knee replacement. I agree on that the hash has become a lot more crazier now in many ways.

  • As I mentioned in a note to Stray Dog, I hope hashing will continue to have a place, however small, for walkers. Hashers who don’t do trail at all, who merely grab a ride to the end in the B van, make me squirm. But I have no problem with hashers who still get out and walk trail.

    I didn’t ask him what he thinks of bicycle hashing, but that’s more my speed these days.

    In my experience, hashes can be both athletic and alcohol-centric. The main hash in Tucson is that way, with long, hard trails and equally long, hard circles. Since I quit drinking, circles have become a reason to stay away from the hash. I founded a couple of small BYOB hashes that meet in the morning: few members drink and circles are short. This is my kind of hashing now, and if I read SD’s manifesto correctly, there’s room for us under the Harrier umbrella.

    And look, yes, he made the whole “World Harrier Organization” thing up, but you know what? I like it. I support it. And for some reason I can’t yet articulate, I too think we should reach out to our harrier and hares & hounds cousins.

  • 11BO

    Well, well… Certainly food for thought. Glad to see that after all the troubles he has had that SD is still out and about. I, too, have had my fill of debaucherous, over-the-top 2+ hour circles and shenanigans. While I am no longer a runner, I still like the camaraderie and challenge of a well laid, thoughtfully put together trail. It is the challenge and sense of accomplishment from completing a demanding trail together that builds a group, not the type, amount or quality of the beverages provided. I have made many friends over the years, many of which I am still in contact with (albeit only through social media, sadly). I wish both of you all the best, and hope to see you again on trail someday!

    On-on,

    11BO

  • Stray Dog, a true blue hasher. I Have hashed with him in many hashing events and even attended one of the interhashes he has organized. I like the original hashing ideals as it is true some of the hashes today have have gone astray especially on the drinking aspect of it. We all know that we over preach the drinking part of it but deep down its up to the individual person how much they want to drink after the downdowns. Of course with the exception of the pub crawls and interhashes, i have attended regular hashes whereby they have 4 beer stops on a 2 to 3 mile runs whereby at the end of the trail you end up blacking out. But i have no complaints!!!

  • Aqua Lungs

    Yep, thank you Flying Booger and Stray Dog. Good read and On On!

  • (MASSIVE) slut slinger

    I also find this interesting and enlightening. One item I can add is that my Hashing experience is somewhat opposite of the two protagonists. When I started 26 years ago in 1990, I learned the common motto that the HHH was a “Drinking Group with a Running Problem” obviously accentuating the drinking. Many kennels boasted of never running out of beer and starting with my first world Interhash in KL 1998 there were chugging contests held as official parts of the event. Now 26 years certainly does not go as far back as some or to the beginnings but it is certainly longer than the majority of active Hashers. The Hash also used to purposefully try to annoy the public by running in crowded places including fancy hotels and blowing our whistles as loudly as possible. Now days there appears to be a much less rebellious streak than when I started.

    Even this thread supports that ‘refreshment’ is crucial to the experience. The “debate” seems to be that drinking has become the be all and end all of the group. I actually see less emphasis on drinking now than when I started. I assumed that was more because of US driving laws and awareness than a conscious decision on values. I know as RA again 15 years after my previous stint, I push full down-downs much less than before. Fifteen years ago I would inspect vessels to make sure they were appropriately full and expect the vessel to be emptied in or on the hound. Now I don’t look to see if it is even beer of if they take more than a sip. (I will admit exceptions for namings and such.) Also in the past was the custom of finishing all available beer before leaving. Now I rarely see that, and our circle, and many that I visit, end at a natural point when the circle loses steam.

    To address the second issue of hazing, I agree this is a fine line. I would submit that the same balance on beer consumption be applied to the grief distributed at the circle. When done right, the teasing is enjoyed by all (even the hound being teased) and brings everyone closer. I agree that when it becomes mean spirited, that it is not much fun for anyone. I actually think this is the biggest challenge for the RA or whomever leads the circle. For example, I make sure that I am always smiling and don’t even bother to recognize accusations against those I know are sensitive or will not play along. This is certainly easy to abuse and I appreciate the concern, but frankly I would be lost without it.

    The final point I want to cover is the running/walking/autowanking conundrum. I won’t (here) address live lays versus dead lays as I see certain advantages to them both. I agree that running the trail is the most interesting way to experience Hashing. When I was younger and would run more/farther, I would actually look forward to the trail more than the circle. This was also in my 20′s when I found binge drinking more appealing, yet the unique part of Hashing was the trail. I could always find a place to drink. When I started it was also the time that jogging was increasing in popularity and Hashing was a natural vehicle for those that wanted to exercise yet were bored with road or track running. In fact it seemed that the Hash mostly recruited people from organized road races. However, I have noticed several changes over the years. Personally I have gone from a recreational runner competing in 5K’s and 10K’s to an occasional runner with five knee surgeries. I am not alone. I have also noticed the average age of the many Hash kennels rising. While I would like to see everyone running, I can acknowledge that this may no longer be practical in all kennels. However, I do strongly agree that those that almost never complete trail on foot at whatever speed are missing out on a crucial part of the experience.

    Now if you have made it this far, two concluding points. First, I think the Hash is brilliant when it combines and balances the trail and the after trail camaraderie. When done well there is nothing in my world (except sex) that is so wonderful. There are plenty of running clubs, and plenty of drinking clubs, and plenty of hiking/orienteering/trail clubs. The bonding of working together to complete a difficult puzzle trail and then in a lighthearted way teasing each other about the antics that occurred in that process all while enjoying a few beverages is magical. Yes, magical.

    I am not worried about the overall direction of the Hash. In my short time I have seen individual kennels swing from one extreme to another. I have also seen when a kennel varies to far from the center, another kennel pops up to fill the void. What I do regret is ‘old timers’ saying screw it. We have lost many in my own current kennel because they did not like the direction when if they would have stuck around two years they would have seen the pendulum swing back. If you just throw your hands up in disgust and leave, then I will venture at the risk of being flamed, that you are part of the problem. The magic of Hashing is too strong. It will – eventually – pull itself back to the center because this is where it is most fun. Help keep it centered by passing on and reinforcing traditions. This is more helpful than arguments or bitching.

    (M)ss

  • There are no rules in the Hash universe – there is a mock disrespect for general conventions. It is all done in a spirit of fun and sense of ridiculous. There is a lot of tongue-in-cheek that goes on but it elicits smiles than hurt. It is amazing that this free spirit attitude is international and we have respect and genuine affection for like spirits who hash all over the world. Hashers are not the kind of people who boo the opposition – they are the ones cheering! No personal gain or politics should be involved, so when Eurohash In Krakow was speculated, well…Remember, Run or Walk, All Hashers can Run, but Not all Runners can hash ;-)Enjoy

  • Mary Pussy Poppins

    I’ve got to say that after hashing for about 25 years, in the USA, Europe, Asia and Africa, that I agree 100% with the analysis that (MASSIVE) Slut Slinger has made in his well though out comment. On On, and May the Hash Get A Piece!

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