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Former Mr. InterAm Bares All: an Interview with Beaver Bam Bam Balls

In 1997, at InterAmericas Hash in Trinidad & Tobago, Beaver Bam Bam Balls took the stage and belted out his original song, Short-Cutter’s Rhapsody, thus becoming Mr. InterAm ’97, an honor he will never live down.

BBBB, also known as Scott Kanzelmeyer (“Stan” for short), is from Pennsylvania, where he cut his hashing teeth 21 years ago with the Nittany Valley H3.  Today he lives and hashes in Long Beach, California, hashing with Long Beach, Orange County, Los Angeles, and other area kennels.  BBBB, at different times, has served the hash as hare raiser, religious advisor, and tyrant.  Along the way he founded three kennels: Nittany Valley Full Moon H3 in State College, Pennsylvania; Finger Lakes Full Moon H3 in upstate New York; and Stan Nats H3, a traveling hash (which had its most recent run at the 2009 InterAm in Winter Park, Colorado).

Beaver Bam Bam Balls

Beaver Bam Bam Balls

I asked BBBB about the set of hashing traditions he comes from.  His answer:
“Mixed, dead hare originally but now live hare, mostly A-to-A trails, singing in the circle.”

Let’s see what else he has to say . . .

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Beaver Bam Bam Balls, when & where was your first hash?

Nittany Valley H3 Run #69, October 1988, State College, Pennsylvania.

How’d you find the hash?

A female co-worker invited me to the hash. I had run track and cross country in high school and had no problem working out with a team, but never enjoyed dragging my ass through a workout on my own. Once in college, I eventually gave up running for that reason. Once I found the hash, it put the fun back in running and it was love at first hash.

How did you get your hash name?

The thing I love about hash names is that there are usually stories behind them, thus the question. The other thing I love about hash names is that they are a great conversation starter. I am always ready and willing to tell the story behind my hash name, just approach me and ask. For this article, I’ll say only that my name was actually earned and given in two separate episodes and it has nothing to do with the fact that I was born and raised in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

Did you have a hashing mentor?

Initially I thought no, but further reflection would have me say that the closest thing I would say I had to a “hash mentor” would be Guamie, or more correctly Gulafin. He came to Nittany Valley from Guam, so we called him Guamie instead of his real hash name (we were a young hash and Guamie was easier to pronounce that Gulafin). I had already become a traveling hasher and had seen that there was a larger hash world outside of my local hash. Gulafin introduced the live hare to Nittany Valley and was key to our promotion of the Grand Master to GM for life and the installation of a Tyrant to run the hash.  Nittany Valley was one of the first North American hashes with a Tyrant (Oregon Hash was founded by Guam — Corrigan, tyrant and founder — likely the first).

When & where was your first away hash?

November 1988, Pittsburgh. Visiting my folks in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, I hooked up with Pittsburgh. They became a favorite and often road trip hash for me over the years.

Where have you hashed?

Far too many to list here, but suffice it to say that just about any hash within 100 miles or so of State College, Pennsylvania I’ve probably visited (with a few exceptions). I also traveled for about five years for work, so I have visited at least half of the states and have hashed on every continent with the exception of Antarctica (I’ll consider Trinidad as part of South America).

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

One of the things I learned very early in my hashing career was that every hash is different. For that reason, the places that I would like to hash is any hash I have not yet run with.

Are there places you wouldn’t consider hashing?

This actually is a continuation of the answer above. I try not to pre-judge any hash and would not rule any hash out. Now that fact that every hash is different and tends to reflect the tastes and traditions of the locals means that there have been hashes that I may not want to run with again, but that does not mean I didn’t enjoy the experience for having at least tried it. While I would not rule any hash out categorically, I might not want to run with a specific hash at some specific moment in time, such as a hash running in a war zone. I know that there are those who do, and if the invitation were enticing enough, I may do it just for the thrill, but as basically a coward, I prefer not to put myself in harm’s way. That doesn’t mean that I would never want to run with such a hash. Example: I would not have wanted to hash with the Kuwait hash when they did their last run AFTER the invasion during the first Gulf war. I did, however, run with them years later when in country, and credit them with keeping me sane during my two weeks there.

Do you have any favorite haring techniques?

Gallon milk jug with a hole cut in the top and a tennis ball. I pioneered this technique while in Nittany Valley and use it to this day. A small amount of flour goes a long way as you let the ball roll around in the flour while running and then drop the ball, catch it, and dunk it back into the jug. The ball picks up the right amount of flour before you grab it again for a drop. The trail is a nice series of perfectly round marks with a small dimple in the center and you can still reach into the jug for larger amounts to mark checks and arrows and the like. The key is to have a couple of back-up balls for when one gets away from you, especially when laying live. You don’t want to be chasing errant tennis balls when the pack is on your tail. I had the first such jug I made for about 15 years. I used the same jug in Nittany Valley the entire time I was there (and added more and more duct tape over the years to cover holes) and used it in Flour City (Rochester, New York). I seem to have lost it during the move to the West Coast, but am working on my new favorite jug as we speak (write).

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

Meeting my wife, Low Beams.

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

Having a hasher die on a trail that I hared. It especially sucks in that the trail was laid in his honor. I don’t recommend it to anyone.

What’s the most dangerous trail you’ve done?

As a hound there were a couple, for different reasons. There was a trail in upstate New York, a joint trail between Flour City and Ithaca as I recall, that ran along the edge of the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park — the Grand Canyon of the East. There were several parts of the trail where ropes were attached as we clung to the edge of the canyon rim and then a rope climb down the face of the canyon. The worst part of the rope climb down was that the rope was about 10 feet short. C-Note, a legally blind hasher, probably had a more difficult time than I did. I remember standing below him saying, “trust me, it’s only a few feet. Just let go.” Another was the time I ran with Mother Hash in Kuala Lumpur. The trail was great with hills and shiggy and then there was the torrential downpour. At first, I thought it was great, despite the fact that my glasses were getting coated on both sides making it difficult to see. I continued to run and blow my bugle with gusto until I realized that there was thunder in the area, implying lightning. In a sudden moment of lucidity, I remembered that I was carrying what was probably the largest piece of metal in a 10-mile radius. I ran the rest of the trail with my bugle about knee level. As a hare, finding out that I had brushed up against a live 440-volt signal wire that was later, unfortunately, discovered by another hasher, qualifies as the most dangerous trail I’ve ever done.

What’s been your most remarkable hashing experience?

There have been a number. For the sheer thrill of it all, I would have to say performing a skit at the KL Interhash. When in college, I performed with the Penn State Blue Band. Marching with the band during football games in front of over 100,000 people (and in front of millions with the TV audience during the 1984 Sugar Bowl) was a thrill, but standing alone on the stage in KL in front of 6,000 hashers performing my tune Short-Cutter’s Rhapsody was an even bigger thrill.

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

I’d love to see Interhash come to the Western Hemisphere. The reason is that it has never been and this would further cement the fact that hashing is a global phenomenon. The problem is that the US is not world hashing friendly. Certainly there are a number of cities that could pull the event off and provide wonderful scenery and atmosphere (New Orleans and central Pennsylvania come to mind), but the visa issue was a problem prior to 9/11 and now would likely be prohibitive. Then there is the insurance problem. With the US being essentially permanently off the list, it might be possible for Canada (loved IAH in Calgary and British Columbia would be great — Hogtown, I love ya and you may also be a good candidate), but I don’t know of any South American hashes that would be up to the task. In the future, there may be a Western Hemisphere hash that can pull it off. We’ll see. As for the notion that if it ever came here it would never go back to Asia, that’s just silly. We have trouble some years getting hashes to bid on IAH, let alone Interhash. If we do get it over here, we’d be lucky to get it back again anytime in the next 20-30 years.

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

Camaraderie. With the world the way it is, it is still nice to be able to get together, commune, exercise, and drink a few beers. In the past, I have had several occasions where hashers I had never met in person before have picked me up at an airport or hotel to take me to a hash, or given me crash space, and on two separate occasions, given me the keys to their car and directions to the hash (they couldn’t make it for one reason or another) and directions back to their place and wished me luck and fun. The general goodwill of hashers brings me back.

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

Politics and drama. The hash could do without politics and we don’t need drama queens, of either sex. The problem is that any group of any size has personality issues, which leads to politics and drama.

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

I would have to say yes. Funny thing is that the further I got away from my mother hash (and their traditions), the less enthusiastic I was to hashing. When I was in Nittany Valley, I could not imagine missing a hash. The only way I would miss one was that I was out of town, most likely hashing somewhere else. In Flour City, I wanted to make every hash, but it was far easier to find an excuse to miss a hash, even when I was in town. Now that I’m on the West Coast, I find it much less difficult to justify missing a hash, too far away, other plans, etc. Is it only that the hashes out here are not the same as my mother hash, or is it just that time has gone by? I can’t say for sure, but I have noticed the change.

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

I have not noticed a change in my professional life, though there was an episode that potentially could have affected my career (hash politics that could have affected acceptance to a job), but I would say that hashing has certainly helped shape my personal life. I was always a very shy person and somewhat socially awkward. I discovered karaoke and this helped draw me a bit out of my shell. Almost at the same time, I found hashing. The combination of rediscovering my singing voice and getting back into running with a great group of people certainly expanded my social skills and helped make me the slightly extrovert or less of an introvert (well, at least attention whore) I am today. It also introduced me to my wife, a bit of a personal change.

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

I don’t hide my affiliation with hashing (in my job, I can’t hide anything), but I certainly don’t flaunt it. I tend to only ask people that I know and feel would enjoy hashing. In the modern world, it is hard to think of the hash as underground, but in some respects, it still is. Yes, it is far more accessible on the web, but unless you look for it, you will still have trouble stumbling upon it. And it should be that way, in my opinion. When I was at Nittany Valley, we used to put up posters (State College is a college town – Penn State). We had two different posters. One said, “Are you tired of running the same old trails? Come run with us and we’ll show you parts of town you never knew existed . . . and we’ll have a beer” (or something to that effect). The other said, “Are you tired of drinking the same old beers? Come hang out with us and we’ll also get some exercise” (again, something like this though it has been a few beers since then and I can’t remember the exact words). These signs were placed in different types of locales, tracks and the like, and bars. We got recruits from each kind of sign. As a small group in a college town (big turn-over), we had to resort to such tactics. Some of the recruits stayed, some did not. As the hash grew, we stopped doing this and relied on word-of-mouth. My opinion is that the best recruits are those that you have studied and decided will make good hashers.

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

Having fun, drinking beer (or at least not condemning me for doing so), and making fun of everything and every one. Either everything is acceptable to make fun of, or nothing is. I choose everything.

What do you think you’ve contributed to hashing?

I worked very hard in my early years to transform Nittany Valley from a hash that tried to sing into one that was a singing hash. I feel that I was able to do so. I think that Nittany has continued, even after I left, to be a singing hash and have tried to spread it further. I have written a few hash songs that I performed at various interhashes. I have also tried to spend as much time as possible with Ian Cumming to learn some of the hashing (and old rugby) songs that he knows. I also helped Zippy edit his original classic songbook. In these ways, I hope that I have been able to contribute in some small way to the singing tradition of the hash. I also hope to continue to contribute in this way in the future. Additionally, I have tried to contribute, in my small way, to the electronic communication of the hash. I have been active on hash-l since the late 80s and have worked on and hosted a number of hash related websites. I continue to host hash websites and have additional space available on my server for any hashes that would like a web presence and have not yet set a page up.

What’s in your hashing future?

More beer, and maybe another song or two.

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