Friday, June 23, 2006

Running Scared -- A Hashing Story

Before checking out the following little adventure, you might want to read my original post about “hashing” here first.

Starting my own Hash

I had always dreamed of starting my own Hash House Harriers club, and I finally did so in 1989, a few years after arriving in Arkansas. My harriers and I met mostly at my home in base housing on the Air Base. I tried to run a “hash” every Saturday, weather and work permitting. I built up my club from a nucleus of a half-dozen or so steady participants; these hard-core devotees were mostly guys from my unit, the 314th Avionics Maintenance Squadron.

It got easier to get other guys to come out and run with us after the Quality Assurance Office picked me up as an Avionics Inspector. All of a sudden I was the boogey man, a fellow with some “power” and a little influence. Now, when I went on my inspection rounds and asked folks if they wouldn’t like to come over and try a hash run, often some felt pressured to do it. No one wants to make the QA guy mad – after all, they never knew when it would be their time to get an “over the shoulder.” Not coming out wouldn’t have affected my assessment, even a little bit, but I wasn’t going to tell them that. Besides, once they tried it, they were hooked.

On Being the "Hare"

After a year of organizing hashes, I began to search out new and more challenging hashing routes. I took my turn as hare, or "wabbit" as Elmer Fudd says, more often than the others, mostly because I loved the test of being chased. I spent hours exploring and mapping out possible sites that would make the perfect places to “checkpoint” and “false trail.” The important thing for a “rabbit” making a trail to keep in mind is to avoid running through an area where the chase runners can see you from a long way off. If they can see YOU, that means they don’t have to follow YOUR “tracks.”

I was a sassy brassy rabbit. I loved doubling back and going to ground, so I could watch the hounds from up close as they intently strove to run me down. It gave me a strange feeling of power, and it was just plain fun to watch my hounds from as close as possible. Once, I circled around and buried myself under a pile of leaves, and watched barely stifling giggles as the dozen hounds trotted by on both sides of my hiding place. One guy even stepped on my hand as he jogged past my prone concealed body. It was deliciously exciting being invisible like that. Several times they tried to outsmart me by leaving one guy back to try to catch me when I circled around. It was a chess game I almost always won, mostly by just running fast when they got close until I got away. In hashing, being quick is better than being cagey!

Most Memorable Hashing Moment Ever?

I have many pleasurable memories from those days, but perhaps the most memorable of all came about one Saturday when I ran my hounds around the outside of the base golf course. I knew it was going to be risky, because I was going to be visible from a long way off from where I took them past the base’s main gate before ducking back into a large plot of woods. By doing so, I was breaking one of the most important rules of being a hare. When I hit the long scary open area, I ran as fast as I could while still laying spoor, but I wasn’t quite quick enough. For as I made my way, almost at a sprint, halfway to the safety of the woods on the edge of the golf course, I heard someone yell from 100 yards away, “There he is!”

Dang it! I had needed only about 10 more seconds and I would have been out of sight. Now, they were taking a direct line RIGHT at me, and the bad thing is they were running diagonally across the 6th fairway to do so. None of them was a golfer, so they didn’t understand why that was such a big no-no. Some disgruntled linksman, probably an officer, was going to scream bloody murder for sure.

Never mind. Getting away is all I was concerned with at that point. I sprinted into the obscuring safety of the big rectangular patch of woods. I stopped leaving spoor until I was in the trees, since they knew where I was anyway. As soon as I hit the woods line I began tapping my dust sack against tree trunks, rocks, and on the ground every three or four strides. Knowing they were right on my tail, I wasn’t nearly as careful as I usually was about leaving detectable bright white splotches from my sock full of hydrogenated lime dust. Truthfully, I was in a mild panic. After all, the hounds were right on my trail and I could feel their breath on my neck. Awesome! I was in my element. That’s what I lived for!

My plan was to take them all the way up the long side of the woods plot to a paved golf cart trail, and even in my hurried state I kept on that strategy. From there, I stayed on plan and turned right so that I could quickly get The Hash back off the golf course. I knew I was taking a dangerous chance cutting across the course anyway, but what’s life without taking a few risks? I did my thing and continued to lay my trail.

I Zigged, They Zagged

Once I was safely off the golf course, I took an immediate right behind a ridge running parallel with the plot of woods through which my hounds then struggled. I went to ground on top of that ridge, and from my position behind a fallen tree, I could see directly across the 8th fairway at the extensive copse where my hounds had faltered. I could hear them calling to each other unseen in the densely leaved trees. From the sound of it, they had lost the bright white lime dust spots I had quickly left in my wake. In their excitement to catch me they had outrun the trail, so that where I had zigged, that’s probably where they had zagged.

A party of four golfers was just making their way up to take their second shots after teeing off from the 8th tee box. Two of them were riding a golf cart and the other two were pulling their clubs with handcarts. I smirked watching their consternation at all the noise in the woods to their left. Suddenly a raccoon burst out of those same woods and skittered crazily between the golfers toward the far side of the fairway towards me. That crazed coon was merely a foreshadowing of what was to come.

I could hear my dozen confused hounds yelling at each other:

“You got the trail yet?”

“NO! How about any of you over to the right? Can you guys see anything?”

“Not yet! Still looking!”

They Were NOT Amused!

The golfers looked disapprovingly at the trees to their left toward the unwelcome loud voices of my hashing “troops.” One fellow even stopped pulling his cart and walked to the edge of the thick line of trees trying to catch a glimpse of the “big mouths” – I KNEW we were going to hear about it now (and BOY did we EVER!). The angry duffers looked like officers or senior enlisted guys; either way, neither group tends to have a sense of humor – a trait this “foursome” was about to have put to an “extreme” test in just a few more seconds.

My naughty and annoying hounds were now on line trying to find a single lime splotch so they could get back to following my trail of splotches. I cringed as I heard them yelling back and forth, along with the cracking break of branches and twigs as they made their way through the thick foliage.

Then one of the hounds screamed, “Hey, I’ve got the trail! On! On! This way boys!”

About then I heard my guys make a series of excited whoops, and then a God-awful crashing noise as all of them took off at once into the same direction.

No Way! It Can't Be!

That’s when the REAL show started! And I couldn’t BELIEVE what I was seeing – was I REALLY seeing this? EVERY type of forest animal I’d ever imagined living in the State of Arkansas began to pour frantically from the woods across the expanse of fairway to my front. An avalanche of creatures swarmed from out of the tall grass and undergrowth, all of them spooked to flight by MY noisy hounds. I was amused realizing that not one of my harriers was even remotely aware of the mayhem they were causing in that small corner of the animal kingdom.

Amazingly, one of about a half-dozen stampeding deer, a buck with a beautiful six-point rack of antlers, bounded straight out of the foliage. One of the pull cart golfers was directly in its frenzied path. The panicked deer got to within 10 feet of the man before noticing that a human being was right THERE! Once the buck saw the man, it put on the brakes only as a deer can, or maybe an NFL hockey player. Only instead of ice chips flying, a hefty five-foot long strip of sod and dirt was thrown high into the air and all over the startled golfer.

Seeing a 190-pound white-tailed deer bearing down on him, the shocked man cowered, crouched low and covered his head with both arms. The heaving deer fell heavily on its side within a couple feet of the screaming golfer before scrambling back up in a flurry of legs, antlers and hooves. Regaining its feet, the buck continued on its original course, bounding away in incredibly long 15-foot leaps. After seeing that I can assure you that the definition of “fear” is most certainly the sight of a frightened deer! Or, is it the sight of a golfer being frightened by a deer in fear?! Either way.

Furry and Feathered...

For a few seconds, my attention had been completely taken up by the dramatic interplay between the golfer and deer. Now all the other beasts, large and small, mesmerized me. I never imagined that so many critters could live in such a small area. These furry and feathered beings literally streamed in their scores across the short-clipped fairway grass, all of them trying to escape from my hounds. I tried to gather in and catalogue the unlikely hodgepodge of fauna before me – mice, fox, squirrels, opossum, lizards, skunk, deer, a couple of armadillos, even snakes and birds issued forth, and all because of my hounds and me. Cool!

In less than a minute it was over. The torrent of animals gushing across the fairway greenery, through and around the startled golfers, ended as quickly as it began. Even the snakes quickly found new hiding places. The first of my unsuspecting pursuers burst forth onto to the cart trail, and the sight of them only a couple hundred feet away knocked me rudely from my dazed trance. I jumped to my feet and went back to work. I had a trail to put down. There were hounds within sight, I was a rabbit, and within a half hour we’d all be drinking cold beer and I’d be telling them an unbelievable story . . . . About a bunch of other animals, besides me, that they had put on the run … On! On!


Ed said...

Back in my boy scouting days we used to play a game similar to this except that we didn't carry any "spore" to lay down. The chased person was just expected to leave enough footprints, broken swigs or other signs for us to follow. Most of the time we would just lose the trail and it then became a huge game of hide and go seek.

One time when I was being chases, I ran to the edge of a small creek, doubled back aways and climbed high into a nearby tree. I sat up there for perhaps twenty minutes watching them splash back and forth in the creek thinking that was how I alluded them before my laughter finally gave me away.

Excellent post.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hey Ed. That's the beauty of this blog sport...someone else's post reminded me of that funny moment during a long ago hash, and now I've reminded you...and so it goes!