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I’ve been a hasher for close to 20 years, and in all that time, no matter how bad a hash was . . . no matter how difficult the trail, how poor the marks, how screwed up the planning, how late the beer wagon . . . I’ve never had a bad time at a hash. Until our Christmas Eve hash last weekend, that is, when I almost had a bad time.

The hares set an early start so that we could hash and still get home in time for dinner, guests, parties, and last-minute Christmas preparations. Or so we thought. Actually, the hares set an early start so that they could lay an epic two-and-a-half-hour-long trail, then entrap us for an additional two hours of down-downs at a small and restroom-less park miles and miles from the start, with no way to get back other than to walk.

Adding to this hashy awfulness was that the hares hadn’t planned anything for the turkeys – the lame, the halt, the walkers – other than to give special instructions to one hasher. Unfortunately, the hasher they entrusted with the secret handshake was unfamiliar with local geography and had only the shakiest grasp of the north/south/east/west thing. After following him through a few circles we asked him to tell us what he knew, but he wouldn’t . . . sharing knowledge might diminish his power, apparently . . . so we bumbled on, and on, and on.

After a couple of hours, our leader began lagging back. We soon realized he was hiding behind bushes, calling the hares for directions on his cell phone. Even then, he refused to share information with us. He finally flagged down a passing driver and offered the guy ten dollars to drive him around while he looked for the end, then tried to get the rest of us to hop in the car with him. A few of the more exhausted turkeys gratefully piled in, but the rest of us plodded on, actually stumbling upon the end seconds before the auto-hashing group found it.

But earlier, as we turkeys walked (and walked and walked), we began to bitch. And then we whined, like Vikings, with horns on our head. We pissed and moaned, beefed, squawked, grumbled, bellyached, muttered, carped, groused, fussed, moaned, and wailed. And I, dear hashers, joined this whingers’ chorus, may G forgive me. I was ashamed of myself. Today, a week later, I’m still ashamed. Okay, the hash was pretty bad . . . but where do I get off whining about it?

My friend Hazukashii, fellow hasher and long-time co-editor of the Half-Mind Catalog, has recently taken up the cause of “pure hashing.” Locally, some of our older hashers broke away from the main group to start a back-to-basics hash. And you know what? I’m beginning to think these folks are on to something.

Hashing isn’t for whiners. We always say the first and only rule of hashing is “there are no rules.” Can we change that? The rule should be “no whiners.” You go to a hash, you know it’s a gamble. Trail might be easy. Trail might be hard. You might be out for an hour, two hours, or even longer. You might fall off a cliff or plunge into a pool of liquid pig shit. You might be speared by thorns or stung by bees. You might get hopelessly lost and have to retrace your way back to the start, then drive home unfulfilled, a mere quitter. I’ve done all these things, and I’m still here to talk about it. Good trails and bad, my love of hashing has only grown.

But as much as I love hashing, I’ve gotten older, fatter, and a lot slower. Those of us who started hashing back in the 80s are now in our 50s and 60s. Arthritis, bad knees, injuries . . . well, whatever the reason, a lot of us have had to give up running. Most hashes today have two packs: runners and walkers. Many hashes accommodate walkers by offering separate runner and turkey trails, or by giving maps and shortcuts to walkers. And walkers, myself included, have grown spoiled. We’ve come to expect our separate turkey trail. We’ve come to expect the hares to plan special routes for us so that we can get to the beer before the runners drink it all. We’ve become soft.

There’s nothing wrong with walking trail. What’s wrong is when walkers start insisting the hash give them a special trail, one that is easy, flat, and short. What’s wrong is when walkers start expecting the hash – the hares in particular – to lean over backward for them.

Okay, if your hash regularly offers separate runner and turkey trails, fine, count yourself among the blessed. But if you belong to a hard-core hash, a hash that lays a runner’s trail and doesn’t do anything special for walkers, hey, suck it up. If you want a turkey trail bad enough, volunteer to hare and show them how it’s done. But don’t whine. Never whine. There’s no hash requirement to coddle walkers, and never has been. If you come in an hour behind the runners, well, that’s the price you pay for getting old. We need to remember what hashing is all about. Anybody can have a party. Anybody can drink beer. But if you don’t have a trail, you don’t have a hash.

Yeah, last week’s hash was poorly planned. There was plenty to complain about. But there was a trail, however screwed up, and I’m none the worse for finishing it. I was with friends. I had an adventure. And now I have another story to tell. It’s all good.

My resolutions for the new year? Get back to basics. And no whining.

- Flying Booger

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