I’ve always been blessed with a curious condition, but a wonderful one at that, I think. I’m easily amazed (some would say amused).
The smallest things have always revved my motor. Perhaps it’s just a common item I’ve found discarded by the side of the road, or a cicada in steadfast grasp of the trunk of an Alabama pine tree, or the hopeful azure hue of a crisp fall morning, or any number of seemingly mundane and average events, but somehow, most manage to give me delight. I feel joy as a result of many of these experiences, no matter how insignificant. I’ve been accused of having hair-trigger emotions.
I believe that may be one of the great keys to a rewarding life, though. Never loose your youthful enthusiasm and wide-eyed excitement and your path through this life will be punctuated with wonder and amazement. Expect joy and you will find it everywhere.
And that’s one of the reasons I love Amateur Radio so. It’s a hobby ripe with adventure, excitement and the unexpected. And one of those unanticipated joys occurred last weekend, and then all over again today when our postman arrived.
So here’s the story.
I was smack dab in the middle of a radio contest, more an informal operating event really. It was the monthly Weekend Sprint (WES) conducted by the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC). I discovered the group after an almost 20-year absence from the hobby when I returned to the air this past March. It wasn’t long after I erected an antenna and fired up the old Icom 735 that I began to hear CW operators calling CQ SKCC, or swapping SKCC numbers. A bit of research on the Internet revealed this was an organization of CW enthusiasts, with an emphasis on mechanical sending of the code. Doing it the old fashioned, purists way with a straight key, bug or sideswiper. “Why these guys are right up my alley”, I though, and so I joined. Why not? I’ve always had a passion for Morse Code, and membership was free and for life. How cool is that?
And so here I was in the middle of one of their monthly on-air get togethers, contacting stations far and wide, now exchanging my own SKCC number and working toward advancement within the organization. And many of the stations I worked were pounding in, a breeze to copy, loud and clear, while others were submerged deep in the depths of the noise level, far down in the 40 meter muck, and some were almost imperceptible. And one such station answered my call and I strained to hear.
WA4FAT de KB2JWD/QRP
And I was determined to pull this fellow out, even though my logging software had already confirmed he was not a member of SKCC, so likely not participating in the event. I’ve always taken no small measure of pride in being able to snatch a weak signal from the jaws of the noise level, and I was going to do my best for this station too. Besides, I might have an opportunity to evangelize about SKCC.
It’s not uncommon to have a non-member call during these events. Some are curious, others missed the SKCC part altogether, and then there are those wonderful exceptions that always amaze and delight me. And this was one such contact.
I didn’t copy him 100%, but only managed to snatch bits and pieces of his conversation. “running QRP”, I heard, and also “portable setup”. “Good luck in the contest”, he said, and I clearly copied his closing – “You have made my day.”
“Wow! I made his day?” I thought to myself. How often can we say we’ve actually made someone’s day? And the thought of it made my day too. It was an unexpected interlude in the midst of the WES event, and one I couldn’t wait to share with my wife.
I wondered about his portable setup, and was curious just how much power he might have been running. I envisioned a family camp out or perhaps a station operating from a park. I made a notation to send my QSL card, and did so.
And I received his QSL card today, a striking and ecclectic design, obviously handmade and hinting of experience and talent.
The QSL features a Marconi folded dipole, providing a perch for a hand-colored song bird in full throat, and an operator with one hand on his key and another scratching his head with the Morse question mark emanating from his fingertips. And the rig itself appears to be a one-valve job, austere in its construction and resting on an outdoor table.
But it was the reverse of the card that really made be beam with joy.
More hand drawing on the back side of the card with Morse dots and dashes spelling out the name Jim, a grid with the particulars of our contact, including WES prior to my callsign, and then these comments:
“FB Copy OM. Thanks for nice report. QRM and QRN was terrible, but you have a good fist – very readable. RIG: NORCAL 40A putting 2 watts to a wire dipole at 35′ setup on South bank of Suwanee River.
CW still a delight.
God Bless and 73s”
And I drifted away as I read Jim’s remarks. I closed my eyes and imagined the timeless waters of the Suwannee, and one man’s delight on a moonlit night, and I felt a great sense of fellowship.
Thank you Jim, for reminding me that happiness and delight know no boundaries of time or place. Here’s to you, my friend, to your health and happiness, and to many more nights under the stars accompanied by the sweet and timeless music of Morse.
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