Hashers are bawdy, irreverent and politically incorrect. They chug beer in the woods. They call each other by lewd nicknames. They run trails, drink beer and cheerfully sing perverted songs. And they're established, otherwise sensible professionals.
Some people will do strange things for beer.
Take hashers, for example. Most Richmonders have no idea who or what they are, though they've been around for years. Hashers are teachers, executives, social workers, artists, moms and dads. Theoretically, they lead regular lives. But on Wednesdays they shed those identities to indulge their simpler, silly selves. And they do it with as much singing and spectacle as possible.
Hashers are bawdy, irreverent and politically incorrect. They chug beer in the woods. They call each other by lewd nicknames. They run trails, drink beer and cheerfully sing perverted songs. Each week they gather in a different place outdoors and the party begins.
Hashers have stormed the grounds at the State Capitol and mooned the Federal Reserve Bank building downtown. They have trampled the park at Innsbrook and run amok in the Fan. Everywhere they go they celebrate a kind of self-conscious escape from adulthood.
They are a 53-member pack of self-proclaimed "runners with a drinking problem," with ties to thousands of other hashers around the world. Their reasons for hashing aren't philosophical, exactly. They hash strictly for the fun of it. What would you expect from a group that sings about blow jobs and gang bangs?
Except for a growing huddle of people in workout clothes, Bryan Park is nearly empty at 6:30 p.m. on a recent Wednesday.
A 51-year old Capital One executive wearing a hasher T-shirt, old running shoes and white tube socks pulled high over his calves is trying to get the group's attention. Like a pageant contestant, he dons a yellow sash that reads: "tree-protection zone."
"We'll start with introductions," he says.
"I am Tree Humper," he announces. He is the Trail Master. The group draws into a circle. One by one, the others call out their hasher names: Phantom Pooftah! Does Old Hags! Clitty Litter! Blow Off! Bulbous Boobus! I-Feel Tower! Crouching Hare, Hidden Trail! Jerry's Kid! Dial Her Off! Oral Retentive! Douche Nozzle! Bitch Licker! Comatoes! Quack Wacker! until all 28 souls who have turned out for the 399th running of the Richmond Hash House Harriers identify themselves.
"Do we have hares?" asks Tree Humper. "Do we have a chalk talk?"
"Yes we do," replies Dial Her Off, a 32-year-old photographer.
Dial Her Off and Jerry's Kid are today's hares, which means they arrive early to plot the course, mark it with flour and plant the beer. In hasher language, it is called "laying trail." Today they've marked a three-mile run through Bryan Park. The flour alerts the hashers known as hounds to everything from checkpoints to false trails to a spot where games are played (called the "G-spot"), and they signal hashers to stay on course. Jerry's Kid and Dial Her Off explain the trail to newcomers, called "virgins."
Most hashes have two courses: the eagle and the turkey trails.
"If you're a walker, take the turkey trail," advises Dial Her Off. "The eagle is a little bit longer."
She notes the other marks that hashers will find on the course. "This is a boob check or a tit check." With chalk she draws a circle on the ground with a dot in the middle. "That means you have to wait for at least one woman to show up before you can go on. This is also to slow you guys down so everyone can catch up." She makes another mark. "This one is for a false trial. Both false trials are marked. This is a regular one."
The chalk blobs are almost indiscernible but hashers know how to spot them. "They'll be on trees or on the ground, and in some places they're very faint. The ones I could, I rubbed in really good," she explains.
There also is a "BN" mark indicating that beer is near. It is what hashers call a "beer check" everyone gathers midway through the trail to sing and drink. Today there's also a game.
"We need someone to carry the Hashit," says Tree Humper about the plunger, the hasher's official drinking vessel. A pair of boxer shorts and a pair of panties dangle from it like tattered flags.
"Drink and pass; drink and pass," says Tree Humper to those drinking a "pre-lube" beer.
"Do I have nominations for Hashit carrier?" he asks.
Phantom Pooftah nominates Jerry's Kid.
"JK is dressed up in honor of Gay Pride Week," Phantom Pooftah, a 36-year-old college professor, tells the group. The tall tanned JK wears a red shirtdress, headband and lipstick. The others applaud.
"OK, JK wins the Hashit by acclamation," says Tree Humper.
"I've got a special Hashit," says Phantom Pooftah. He displays a kind of flag.
"This is freshly purloined from the Fort Lee hash on my second visit," Phantom Pooftah proclaims. "After much stern talking about how I wouldn't steal their flag a second time, Greasy Nuts came up with his trunkload full of Fort Lee hash gear, including this thing sticking out of the trunk. It was right next to my car and a big goddamn delivery van blocked the view from the hash and me taking it. So what am I supposed to do?" he asks.
"Steal it," everyone yells.
Tree Humper says, "We also have what I carried last week, and it truly sucked, which is the FRB log. I will never even accidentally carry that silly thing again." The FRB log it stands for "Front Running Bastard" is passed to the hasher who has run up front during last week's hash. Among hashers, winning isn't the thing. In fact, competition or even claiming they "run" on trails is strongly discouraged.
"I wouldn't be upset if you lost that," a hasher proclaims.
"What good is a relic unless you have to go look for it?" asks Phantom Pooftah.
"I need someone to lead us in 'Father Abraham.' Is there a volunteer?" asks Tree Humper.
Nobody steps forward, so JK and Dial Her Off lead the routine that only hashers could call a warm-up exercise.
Father Abraham had seven sons, seven sons had father Abraham. And he never laughed, and he never cried. All he did was go like this
They sing and gesture in what appears to be a much-modified version of jumping jacks.
Then the hashers are off, ambling toward the dirt trail like happy hounds.
ashers, believe it or not, are proud of their lineage. It dates to 1938 when a British expatriate named A.S. Gispert convinced his buddies in Kuala Lumpur to play a version of hare and hound, with beer as the reward for finishing the trail. Since then groups of hashers have sprung up in 149 countries worldwide, claiming nearly 1,500 chapters.
The Richmond Hash House Harriers are descendants of a hash in Madrid, they say. The local chapter started in 1992 with less than a dozen hashers. Today the e-mail roster boasts 53 official members. Weekly hashes average 25 runners each. And that number, they say, is growing by 10 percent a week, with four or five newcomers at each hash. (The first hash is free; after that each hash is $5 to cover the cost of beer.)
Back on the trail, the first hasher has spied flour and calls out the trademark cry known by all hashers: "On-On!" The sound echoes through the park.
In minutes, the first few members of the now-staggered group come to a creek.
"Oh no, no way!" one cries. They splash and laugh, forsaking dry shoes.
"Just follow the creek," another says. "This is gross!"
"There's a false trail right there," calls a hasher who decides to walk.
"On-On!" The calls have become instinctive to most and are blurted out every few seconds. The cacophony sounds more like that of excited chickens than hounds.
"It's like a regular block party over here, isn't it?" asks Comatoes, a 31-year-old lab supervisor. Comatoes is married to Phantom Pooftah, the 36-year-old college professor. They met at a Cleveland hash. She was visiting there with a hash from Pittsburgh and he was with a hash from Eerie, N.Y.
"Some people use this as a social outlet," she explains. "Some use it as a dating service." There are other couples in the group, too, like Dial Her Off today's hare and Does Old Hags, and I-Feel Tower and Second Cumming.
Someone spies the "BN" sign.
"Beer Near!" the hasher announces.
"You got it?" asks Tree Humper.
"It's under big pile of leaves," answers JK, who knows because he planted it. He shakes what looks like a mound of leaves and a blue cooler appears.
"Yeah! It's buried here."
It is filled with beer and water. (Not all hashers drink beer, they insist.)
Just after 7 p.m. it's still hot and sticky outside. Many are dripping sweat by the time they gather at the beer check. Panting, the group forms a sloppy circle to sing songs and swill beer.
Phantom Pooftah leads the hasher chorus. Hashers wear a band around their necks that carries a collection of plastic cards the size of credit cards. It is the Hash Hymnal.
Today is Monday! chants Phantom Pooftah.
Today is Monday! hashers echo.
Monday is a wanking day, he sings.
Monday is a wanking day, the hashers sing back.
Is everybody happy? he warbles.
You bet your ass we are! they cry.
The song continues through each day of the week:
Tuesday is a finger day. Wednesday is a hashing day. Thursday is an Umm-day. Friday is a fing day. Saturday is drinking day. Sunday is a day of rest.
Is everybody happy? he whinnies.
You bet your ass we are! all reply.
It's time for the game. The group numbers off into four teams. The idea, explains Dial Her Off, is for each team to weave a piece of orange string through the sleeves and shorts of each teammate. The team that finishes first wins the game.
"Ready; go!" calls Dial Her Off.
Clothes are tugged, revealing thighs, stomachs and partial chests as sweaty bodies huddle close. The game doesn't appear to deter beer consumption.
At last, the hashers appear content, if not cooled off, to finish the course. At a hasher's whistle, they dart off toward the trail.
"On-On!" someone cries.
Highway traffic zooms on the other side of the photinia hedgerow. But on the trail, hashers forget about the cars and everything else.
"It's a chance for you to relax," says Dicksicle, a restaurant salesman. "Yeah, relax," another hasher agrees.
"Most people doing this have high-pressured jobs, and they come out once a week just to kick back," Dicksickle says. "They know, 'Hey you're among friends, do what you want to do and have fun.' Nobody cares. Nobody's judging you."
The group has circled around the park and comes back to the creek in a different spot.
"Normally what you do is figure two or three beers for everybody and throw a six-pack in of something nice like Heineken or PBR," Dicksickle explains about the duties of being a hare.
"How does your skin feel? We ran through a lot of poison ivy," he adds.
After a second stretch of running or walking the trail is over.
Tree Humper calls for a circle.
Hashers flock to the cooler where beers are grabbed and popped open.
"Great turnout," says Tree Humper. "My objective is to get through the circle quickly. So if you see your neighbors having a Zen background discussion, nudge them on the elbow. Did we have a Hare today?"
"Yes!" the others answer.
"This was my first lay!" announces Dial Her Off.
They sing: And the Hare drinks it down, down, down, down, down! She guzzles. Naturally, others join along.
"What a shty trial! What a shty hare!" they exclaim.
"Thank you," says Dial Her Off.
"Who was the FRB today? I heard it was Oral," says Tree Humper.
"Oral, you suck!" a hasher calls.
"Next time I'll have to carry the log," says Oral Retentive, a grad student who has hashed in Cyprus and Athens, Greece.
JK, who has logged more than 240 hashes, announces milestones for other members.
"Clitty Litter, 11! Comatoes, 40! Does Old Hags, double deuce 22! I-Feel Tower, double threes, plus a hundred, 133! Oral, 135!"
Today's trail marks a milestone for two female hashers. It's the fifth hash for each and that means the group will give them an official hash name. They were given preliminary names at their first hash: Penis Penetrator Preventor and Spanky.
JK leads the questions. "What is your favorite position?"
"On top," anwers Spanky. "On bottom," says Triple P.
"Oh, so lovey-dovey. She just likes to cuddle," chides a male hasher.
"What is your favorite farm animal?" JK asks.
"Horse," says Spanky. "Bunny," tells Triple P. Some make barnyard noises.
"Does the carpet match the drapes?" throws out a hasher. Giggling and guttural noises ensue.
"Yes," answers Spanky. "I would say no," says Triple P.
"Most unusual place you've ever done it?" one asks.
"In a bed," says Spanky. "In a closet," says Triple P.
"Was it during a Christmas party by any chance?" someone asks.
Their answers are interrupted by the next question: "What is the grossest thing you've ever put in your mouth?"
After much merriment Spanky answers: "Spit."
"An olive," answers Triple P. "The green ones," she adds.
"OK, you guys move way out of the circle and everybody else move in so we can talk and not have them hear," instructs Tree Humper. "Grab a beer."
They huddle. "How about Lovin' Spoonful?" suggests one hasher.
"Let's go with Triple P," another says.
"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times," surmises Phantom Pooftah.
"Her favorite position was spooning. Lovin' Spoonful, very nice," a hasher concludes.
"Because in her most embarrassing moment she was upside down and had Wonder Woman on her pants, how about Wonder Womb-man," offers Phantom Poofhah. "Oh, no," he says, after a moment. "Too cerebral."
"OK, what do we got?" asks Tree Humper.
"Lovin' Spoonful!" all agree.
Tree Humper moves on to the next candidate.
"She likes Spanky," a hasher calls.
"I got one: Spank Me!" cries another.
"OK, time out," calls Tree Humper. "What have you got, JK?"
"I've got Horse Skin, Trigger Spits, Rear Breeze and Bummer Breeze. She spits and swallows seeds and she likes horses."
"We're looking for sheer inspiration at this point," another says.
After much ado, the group decides on Trigger Spits.
The two women banned from the circle are invited back in.
Next the "virgin" hashers are pointed out and asked to partake in a "down-down" which means guzzle a cup of preferably beer.
The hashers sing, to the tune of The Flintstones:
Oh, we're the Hashers, we're a page right out of history. From the town of Richmond, we're the leaders of debauchery. From our trail of drinking through the years, watch us as we drink a lot of beers.
"Now you stop and drink and finish what's in your cup or wear it as headgear," explains Tree Humper. Once the four "virgin" hashers oblige, he continues.
"We're naming two today," he points to Triple P. " Let's say goodbye to Triple P."
"Goodbye Triple P!" all yell.
"And hello to Lovin' Spoonful."
"Whoo! Whoo!" welcomes the crowd.
"I like that!" she cries.
"Next we have Spanky. Her item was, Was it the chicken?" asks Tree Humper.
"Since you like horses we thought of Horse Skin. Because you flashed your goodies in fourth grade we thought of Rear Breeze and Bummer Breeze. And then there was Spittin' Ed. But what we have is better. Let's say goodbye to Spanky and hello to Trigger Spits."
Much whooping and hollering follows.
"Come over here and get on your knees," says Tree Humper, motioning. They do.
"We will bless you now in holy flour of the hash. I'll say the hash creed so we can all renew our vows. Do you promise to continue in hash every week, coming and wearing hash gear and bringing your hash vessel?"
"I do," they say.
"Do you promise to sing songs at the beer check and during the circle?" Tree Humper asks.
"I do," they answer.
"Do you promise to hare about 10 percent of the time, setting a good trail with good barley and having excellent beer at the beer check?"
"I do," they say.
"Do you love your fellow hashers as you would your own mother or pet dog?"
"And do you promise to respect your Grand Master?"
The others chortle: "Go to hell!" " Hell, no!" "In his wet dreams."
Trigger Spits and Lovin' Spoonful are baptized with flour, initiated as official hashers. Next they sing a song.
Here's to the new namers that are with us tonight. Here's to the new namers that are with us tonight. They eat it, they beat it, they really mistreat it. Here's to the new namers that are with us tonight. So down down down down down.
"Exit the circle, please," asks Tree Humper.
The after-party called an "on-after" is at Does Old Hags and Dial Her Off's house with burritos, chips and salsa and, of course, beer.
"Let's police the area and pick up our trash," instructs Tree Humper.
The 399th running of the Richmond Hash House Harriers is over. Twenty-eight hashers scatter. In the moments of remaining twilight laughter, a few bars of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and the sound of crushing beer cans drown out traffic and the sound of cicadas.
Style Weekly's mission is to provide smart, witty and tenacious coverage of Richmond. Our editorial team strives to reveal Richmond's true identity through unflinching journalism, incisive writing, thoughtful criticism, arresting photography and sophisticated presentation.
We make sense of the news; pursue those in power; explore the city's arts and culture; open windows on provocative ideas; and help readers know Richmond through its people. We give readers the information to make intelligent decisions.