Dropping in on MN Section Traffic Manager WØLAW, the Legendary Lawman

Robert Meyer, WØLAW

When I moved out here several years ago, it didn’t take long before my phone rang with a radiogram delivered by Robert Meyer, WØLAW. He lives about a half hour away in the city of Marshall, and is the Minnesota Section Traffic Manager. Robert is a well-known traffic handler, consistently ranking at or near the top of the list for traffic handled each month in this state. He retired as chief jailer of the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office a couple years ago, hence his call sign.

I’d never met Robert in person before, but I’ve wanted to. Having heard through the grapevine that he had just had his new tower’s foundation poured, I decided to look him up last Saturday when I was in the neighborhood for my son’s classical guitar recital. Even though my son and I took him by surprise, he welcomed us warmly and gave us a tour. What a nice fellow!

Robert led us around to his backyard, a beautiful parcel of lush green grass with songbirds feeding tamely at several bird-feeders. A couple of wire antennas hung from his current tower, disappearing into some trees and a river valley beyond. The footing for his new tower, nestled up against the back of his house, was massive!

As we stood there discussing antennas and songbirds, I mentioned to Robert that I’ve always wanted to handle a radiogram but have never mustered the courage to do it. He could have laughed at me, but instead he kindly encouraged me to give it a try and then invited my son and I into his house so he could find “a few things” to help me.

You should see Robert’s shack! When you step inside the front door of his house, it’s in plain view — a most excellent man-cave adjoins his living room. Pretty soon my son and I were marveling at his equipment, stuff we might never see again except in catalogs! Delving into his well-organized file cabinet, in short order Robert came up with a couple of reference sheets and a booklet to help me handle traffic. He also tore off most of an ARRL radiogram pad and gave it to me, refusing to allow me to pay for it.
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I’m grateful for Robert’s hospitality and generosity, not to mention his labor as Minnesota Section Traffic Manager. He represents a side of ham radio that has long been as mysterious to me as the dark side of the moon — QRO SSB NTS traffic handling. Once upon a time I wouldn’t have looked him up, but I think I’ve grown up a little since then. I’ve really come to appreciate the variety of people I meet in this hobby and the variety of activities they do.

Once upon a time my horizon was limited; if you were on HF CW I noticed you, especially if you were QRP, but I didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the ham world. I was cheating myself. I’ve loved CW, but I’m starting to like SSB and digital modes, too. I’ve loved QRP, but I’m also starting to appreciate what QRO can do (and the skill it takes to handle it). I’ve always preferred HF, but as I get to know the local hams I’m becoming surprisingly fond of VHF FM.

So I’m glad I looked up Robert, the legendary lawman — and I’m really glad he welcomed my son and I so warmly. Can you imagine getting a surprise visit from a blogger who snaps a picture of your shack for the world to see? That’s a bit much! Thanks, Robert, for being so nice to us and for being such a good sport.

Todd Mitchell, NØIP, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Minnesota, USA. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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