“AA2AJ this is AA2AM. I'm here Jimmy. You're 5 by 9 tonight, what's new?”
And as on so many other nights, this is how the HF conversation on 40 Meters began between Dave Bolton and Jimmy Stapleton. The two young men had been fast and best friends for as long as they were able to remember. But time had moved quickly since then. No longer in elementary school or even high school, they managed to maintain their friendship via Amateur Radio. After both had upgraded their licenses to Amateur Extra, Dave had left for college in another state studying to become an Electrical Engineer. Jimmy had gone to State College near their home of Springdale, in hopes of earning a degree and career in journalism. Even though distance separated them, they bridged that gap via Ham Radio. Dave used the University club station, Jimmy used his station at home.
“I was wondering when you're leaving for home. I will see you over Christmas break, won't I?” Jimmy asked.
“I'm leaving tomorrow morning, Jim. Wild horses couldn't keep me away. I'm looking forward to seeing you. Mom and Dad and the Masons. Besides, I heard that the TCARC repeater needs some work. It will be a busy break.”
As soon as he had said, “Mom and Dad”, Dave himself still couldn't believe how much had changed in the last decade. His mom had passed, he had graduated from both elementary school and then high school, with high honors. Dave was the valedictorian of his class at St. Thomas Aquinas High School. He was accepted to the University that he was attending on a partial scholarship due to his academic achievements.
His Dad had also remarried. Throughout his Mom's illness and death, Jason Bolton had kept in touch with Donna Pescarelli, Abby Bolton's best friend. Donna was a widow herself with a daughter, Maria, who was the same age as Dave. Jason and Donna's friendship had grown into something more, as time passed, and the two realized they had fallen in love with each other. Not quite the same as the love each had shared with their first spouse, but deep enough to realize they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.
To Dave it had made perfect sense. His Dad was still a young man and needed that kind of relationship in his life. He was perfectly happy with their marriage and the addition of a step-sister. Dave and Maria had gone to the same school and had always maintained a friendship. Being brother and sister was great. But the house had become crowded! For a long time it was just Dave and his Dad. Now two women had moved into the house and at times, even though it felt a bit crowded, it definitely felt like “home”.
Dave was knocked loose from his revelry when Jimmy's voice came through the speaker again.
“Dave, you're not driving home, are you? The weather for the next few weeks is looking very iffy. We already have six inches of snow on the ground and the Weather Service is predicting more.” Jimmy advised.
“No, Bud. I'll be taking the train. In fact, I was wondering if you could pick me up at the train station tomorrow afternoon? My train should be at Springdale stallion somewhere around 2:00 PM”.
“Not a prob, dude. I'll be there waiting for you. I'll have my HT with me, so call me on the TCARC repeater when you pull in and I'll meet you and help you with your bags.”
“Thanks, Jim. You're a lifesaver! I owe you big time.”
“Yes, yes you do.” Jimmy laughed. “I'll expect payment in full one night at The Landmark”.
The Landmark was a comfortable little Mom and Pop grill/restaurant in Springdale that attracted a lot of families and friendly neighbors. It wasn't huge, by any means, but it was friendly and the food was excellent. It was a favorite of Dave and Jimmy's.
“Sure, Jimmy. Dinner will be on me. See you tomorrow. AA2AJ this is AA2AM. 73 for now and Good night. AA2AM clear.”
“See you tomorrow, Dave. Don't forget – call me on the repeater when you're in the station. AA2AM this AA2AJ, 73 and clear.”
After finishing up with Jimmy, Dave packed everything he would need over break, including the new VHF/UHF mobile radio he had bought for his Dad. He was proud that his father had finally “bit the bullet” and had studied for, and earned his own Amateur Radio license this past year. Jason Bolton was the proud owner for the call sign KD2JMJ, and made friends with a lot of the local Hams that has mentored both Dave and Jimmy early on in their Amateur Radio careers. Dave wanted to give Jason something new for his Jeep. The old Icom VHF only radio that was in there was growing long in the tooth, and with this newer model, both would be able to keep in touch easier via IRLP links on their respective local repeaters.
The night passed quickly and the day dawned gray and murky. The snow that was forecast had already begun falling. Dave was glad that he wasn't driving the long four hour trip home. The train would bring him back to Springdale easily enough, and he had a pre-arranged ride home from the station. What more could he ask for?
The trip went uneventfully and when he was miles still out of Springdale, Dave brought up the Twin Counties Amateur Radio Club repeater on one of the memories on his hand held radio.
“AA2AJ, AA2AJ, this is AA2AM. Are you there, Jimmy?”
“AA2AM, AA2AJ here, you're full quieting. Are you at the station already?”
“Not yet, Jimmy. Just wanted to see if I could hit the repeater from a bit farther out. I don't think we'll be at the station for another 15 or 20 minutes.”
Jimmy was about to answer when he heard the call sign “N2EBA” announced on the frequency.
“Go ahead Mr. Mason”, Jimmy said, “Dave’s almost home. I figured you'd be listening on frequency.”
George Mason, N2EBA was Dave and Jimmy's “Elmer”. He guided the boys from their pre-Amateur Radio days all the way through to their Extra Class licenses. Even though he and his wife, Jeannie didn't have children of their own, they both came to regard the two young men as their own grandchildren.
Before George could utter a word, Dave broke in, “Merry Christmas, Mr. Mason! Boy, it sure is good to hear your voice again!”
“Boys, boys, boys …... how many times do I have to tell you? It's George, OK? “Mr. Mason” was my father. How are you two doing. It feels like ages since the three of us have talked. Don't forget that you and your families coming over to our house for Christmas Eve. I can't wait to see the both of you!”
The boys were uncomfortable with calling their friend by his first name. It was ingrained in both of them to treat their elders with the utmost respect. But since they knew George really wanted them to, they acquiesced.
“Err …. OK, George, will do.” Dave responded. “And sure thing, we wouldn't miss Christmas Eve dinner at your house for anything! Mrs. Mason is one fantastic cook!”
“Fine business” N2EBA said. “I'll pass on the compliment to Jeannie; but you know guys, both your mothers are no slouches when it comes to cooking, you know”.
The three passed the time away catching up and filling each other in with tidbits of news. Before Dave knew it, the train was pulling into the station.
“OK, guys, I'm going to have to pull the plug for now. The train is pulling into the station. Jimmy, I'll be waiting outside the main entrance on South Avenue. Just pull up in front, this way you won't have to find a parking spot. I'll keep the HT on and will call you if anything changes.”
The trio bid each other 73 and within a half hour, Dave was sitting next to Jimmy who was driving him home. It felt good to be back in Springdale. He had been so busy with his studies at work that he hadn't realized how much he had missed home.
When Jimmy's car pulled into the driveway at the Bolton residence, Dave noticed that Donna's car was in the driveway, but his Dad's wasn't. The two young men went in the backdoor.
“Dave!” Donna practically shouted and ran over to him and gave him a big hug when he walked into the kitchen.
“Hi Mom!” Dave answered. It still took a bit of getting used to – calling Donna Bolton “Mom” but it grew easier each time. She truly was like a second mother to Dave, she treated him in every way as if he were her natural born son. Deep down inside, Dave knew his “real Mom” would have had no problems with their relationship.
“Look at you! Is it possible that you've grown a bit taller since the summer? It's so good to have you home. Jimmy come in! Would you two like a cup of coffee or some hot chocolate? It's positively freezing outside. Let me get something to warm you both up'”
“Thanks, Mom” “Thanks, Mrs. Bolton” came their replies. “That would hit the spot. Hey Mom, where's Maria and where's Dad?”
“Well, Maria is at the library. She's doing some research on a paper for school and she needs to look through some periodicals that aren't available on the Web”. Maria Pescarelli was a student at the local community college. She wanted to become a physical therapist and their county's school had the reputation as having the best program in the state – better than any of the in-state colleges or universities. She was doing a paper on repetitive motion injuries in the workplace and needed to look up some of the latest statistics in the professional journals.
“As far as your Dad – I'm not sure where he is. He said something about “shopping”. I hope he gets home soon, though. I know your Dad is an excellent driver, but I worry when he has to drive in bad weather.”
“I'm sure he's fine Mom. I tell you what, let me give him a call on the repeater. Maybe he's listening”.
“KD2JMJ, KD2JMJ this is AA2AM. Are you listening?”
Almost immediately, his father came back to him, “AA2AM this is KD2JMJ. Dave are you home already?”
“Yeah, Dad. Jimmy and I pulled into the driveway about 10 minutes ago. Are you going to be home soon? Mom's worried about you driving in the bad weather.”
“You're Mom always worries!”
“I heard that!”, Donna shouted from the background.
Both Jason and Dave laughed, “I know she worries about me. I'm almost home – should be there in another 10 or 20 minutes. Let me concentrate on my driving and I'll see you both in a bit. AA2AM, this is KD2JMJ, clear for now.”
“AA2AM clear. See you in as few, Dad. Be careful.”
Donna smiled at the good news and turned to Jimmy. “Jimmy would you like to stay for dinner? I have a fresh home made lasagna in the oven along with a big pot of sausage, onions and peppers simmering on the stove. You know you’re always welcome here. Just give your Mom a call and let her know that you'll be eating here.”
Jimmy lit up like a Christmas tree. “Thanks, Mrs. Bolton! I was hoping you would ask! You make the best lasagna in Springdale!”
As the two young men settled down for a warm drink, Maria arrived home from the library, followed by Jason Bolton a few minutes later. With the family all at home, Donna Bolton was able to relax and treated them all to a sumptuous and memorable meal.
Later, after everything had quieted down, and Jason and Dave were alone together, Dave asked, “So where were you this afternoon, Dad? Mom thinks you were out Christmas shopping.”
Jason Bolton laughed, “In a way, she was right Dave. I was at the animal shelter in Pleasanton. You're mom has mentioned several times how she had a dog when she was younger. The shelter there has some beagles that came from a pharmaceutical lab. The dogs were going to be used for testing a new shampoo that the company was going to be making, but they scrapped their plans and had no use further use for the beagles, so they brought five of them over to the shelter for adoption. I heard about this from Doris, our Office Manager at work. I went over to look at the beagles and am going to get one for your Mom as a Christmas present. I think she'll be thrilled. You should have seen them, Dave! They were practically jumping out of their skin when they saw me, they were so excited. Except for one, who was just a bit smaller than the others. He was quietly snoozing on the lap of one of the volunteers there. When I went to pet him, he woke up, took one look at me and started licking my face like there was no tomorrow. I think he's going to be the one – his name is Barney.
The only catch is that I have to pick him up on Christmas Eve. I'm not sure how I'm going to manage that and keep it all a secret, but I'll worry about that when the time comes. Remember, not a word to your Mom.”
“She'll hear not a word from me, Dad. Promise.”
“That's my boy! Now, tell me about how school has been going.”
To be continued ........
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!