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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.

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