Like an Oasis

This last weekend was a major DX contest and I managed to stay away from the HF radio for all of it. At least until the waning minutes of the contest. The waters had been mightily churned and it seemed one cacophonous mess to the casual listener.

And then, almost magically, as the clock rolled over to 0000 of the next day, the silence was suddenly deafening.

I can just imagine there were quite a few exhausted operators and it’s likely many of them had to be grinning over putting a few news ones in the log. I’ve played in these waters before and know the feeling. But somewhere along the road to becoming a grumpy old man, I got turned off by the high-speed exchanges of button pushing keyboard jockeys staring into the glow of LCD monitors while their computers and radio equipment ran the show.

Anyway, after the contest I had the rig on and was monitoring familiar territory on 40 meters. It was just getting late enough that the band was beginning to go long. I suppose that means different things depending on your location. Here in the Hoosier Heartland 40 meters is good for 250-750 miles, give or take, while the Sun shines. Things can be a bit spooky and unpredictable right around the gray line, but as the hours pass after sunset, the workable area for me on 40 meters grows dramatically.

By 0200 it’s not strange to begin working the West coast. And as the night continues we often see a path to Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific. By 0800 signals from the VK’s and ZL’s waft over Central Indiana just begging to be snagged by anyone awake at that ungodly hour.

So last night at around 0300 I was listening to the quiet while putting together a few things for an early next-morning conference call when I heard a seven calling CQ.

And what welcome relief his signal provided, like an oasis.

Good old-fashioned CW, sent by hand, the way God and Hiram meant it to be, flowing from the desert to my front door.

My new friend was in Lake Havasu City, some 1600 miles southwest of here. After the usual opening platitudes that CW enthusiasts suffer in hopes of what might come next, conversation ensued. Real conversation. He told me about a boating trip he had planned for today and we spoke of other things besides radio and the ailments of age. It was probably the longest CW conversation I’ve enjoyed in 2013 and I would have been pleased had it gone on even longer.

But through the burps in the QSK I could hear other signals floating into the bandpass. No doubt other parched patrons of the dits and dahs anxious to get their turn in the aether now that the contest was over and the band had purified itself from its former abuse.

We signed off in the customary manner of the mode with 73 and many hopes to meet again.

After the logging, I closed station for the night. Now sleep was the one calling CQ and I was slipping into the abyss. But just before passing to the other side of consciousness, I couldn’t help but think that when radio is good, it’s very good.

Jeff Davis, KE9V, is a regular contributor to and writes from Indiana, USA.

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