Posts Tagged ‘holiday’

Happy New Year – 2018

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all who read this blog; and share the hobby of Amateur Radio a very Happy New Year!

May 2018 always be in VFO A.
May 2017 always be in VFO B.
May you get all those ATNOs that 2018 has to offer.
May you get that new piece of gear that you've been dreaming about.
May the bands favor you with the most agreeable conditions.
May your friendships and your enjoyment of the hobby always increase.
May your worries and cares always decrease.

But most importantly, may your friends and loved ones be favored with good health, prosperity, happiness and joy. That is my most sincere wish for you all!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

A Christmas Rescue – Part Three

“Davey, I'm worried. It's getting close to eleven o'clock and not a word from your father.” Donna confided to Davey.

He didn't want to scare his mother, but he was starting to get worried, too. His dad had thought he'd be home by 9 o'clock and it was past that. Worse, there were no answers to repeated calls to Jason's cell phone. Each call went directly to voice mail.  In his room, Davey had made calls on the TCARC repeater, trying to raise his dad.  Those call resulted in no contact, either and that's what was concerning to Davey the most.

“Do you think we should call the police?” she asked Davey?

“Gee, Mom. At this point, Dad's only a couple hours late. I don't know if they're going to be able to do anything. But we could give it a shot if it would make you feel better.”

Donna made the telephone call, and within minutes the police showed up at the Bolton's door. Donna explained what had happened and Davey, making a split decision, had to set things right.

“Officer, my dad wasn't headed to work. He was headed to Pleasanton to pick up a Christmas gift for mom. He expected to be home by nine o'clock and that was over an hour ago.”

Donna gasped out, “What?”

“Sorry, Mom. Dad swore me to secrecy, but I thought it best the police know where Dad was really headed.”

The officer informed Dave, Donna and Maria that there really wasn't too much they could do at this point. Jason was only two hours overdue and generally a person has to be missing for twenty four hours before you could file a missing person report. But they took all the information about Jason Bolton's Jeep and said they would put a word out to the local police stations between Springdale and Pleasanton. They would inform Donna if anything developed.

The officer pulled Dave on the side. “You're involved with the Amateur Radio operators in town right, son?”

“Yes, sir. What are you suggesting?”

“Well son,” the officer started, “A lot of those radio people are involved in Springdale's CERT Team. Anytime we've asked for communications help, they've always stepped up to the plate. I can't have the OEM Director call them up for this, it's too soon.  But you probably know most of them. Look, there's three roads that your dad most likely took – State Highway 9, Pleasanton – Spring Valley Road, or Old Post Road.  Maybe if you and you're friends started looking on your own …......”

George and Jeannie Mason had come over to be with the Boltons. George had overheard the conversation between Dave Bolton and the police officer and had immediately said, “Say no more. Davey, you call Jimmy and get him over here.  I am going to get on the phone and start making some phone calls.  Donna, is it OK if I have the guys come over here as a meeting point?”

“But George, it's Christmas Eve! Do you think you'll be able to get anyone to help?” Tears started coming down her face.

George Mason reassured her. “Don't you worry, Donna. This is what we do, especially when it's one of our own.  I think I can have a bunch here within the hour. The best thing you could do right now is get some coffee brewing. This might be a long night.”

As Donna went into the kitchen, Dave followed. This time, she really broke down. She hugged Davey so tightly, he thought he was going to break. “Oh Davey. When John died, I thought I was going to, too. How I managed to get through that, I'll never know. Then your dad and I fell in love and it was like my life was worth living again. I don't know if I can go through this again.”

Davey had a lump in his throat, but this was no time for weakness. He put the bad thoughts out of his head and took control. “Don't worry, Mom. We'll find him. Keep praying and let's just take it as it comes.”

Just as George Mason had expected, the phone chain had worked. Four members from the TCARC who were also CERT members had shown up at the Bolton house.  They all met in the dining room, looking at a state map on the table.

George Mason got right down to business, “Thanks for coming out on Christmas Eve guys. I know you'd rather be with your families, bu this is for one of our own. Jason KD2JMJ had an errand to run to Pleasanton.  He left at 6 o'clock and should have been home by 9 o'clock at the latest.  That was over two hours ago.  The police have been notified and are going to do all they can, but since it's been so recent, there's not much they can do. They suggested we get together.”

He continued on, “The police feel it's most likely that Jason took either  State Highway 9, Pleasanton – Spring Valley Road, or Old Post Road. Maybe if we team up by two and head out to Pleasanton on the roads, we'll find out what happened.

I'll stay here and man the radio and act as a Net Control. John and Bob – you two take State Highway 9. Tim and Wayne, you take Pleasanton – Spring Valley Road.

Dave and Jim – you take Old Post Road.  Be careful out there gentlemen, report back to base every 15 minutes or sooner if you see something.”

Jason Bolton had regained consciousness. Everything was kind of woozy, and his head hurt on the left side, towards the front of his scalp. He felt something warm against his face.  It was Barney!  Barney had gotten out of his carrier and miraculously, was no worse for wear. He had been licking Jason's face when he came to.

“Barney, good boy! It looks like we're in kind of a jam, boy”. Jason took stock of his situation after a few minutes. The car was on it's side in a ditch. The passenger side was “up” and the driver's side door was “down”.  The air bags had deployed and something was pinning his left arm down.  He could move and wiggle his hand, but couldn't free his left arm, and his left side hurt like blazes.

“OK, let's see. I can't free myself, but the radio seems to be working, thank God I hooked it straight to the battery and not through the ignition switch.” Of course he meant the Icom VHF radio under the dash. “If I can reach the microphone, maybe I can call for help.  My cell phone's in my left pocket ….. I think. No way I'm reaching that.”

Talking to himself out loud had a calming effect. He knew that the very least thing he needed to do now was panic.  He was able to reach into the center console and found an old rag that he kept to wipe the inside of the windshield from time to time. “Not exactly sterile. But I can use this to possibly stop this scalp wound from bleeding.”  He placed the rag on his scalp wound and kept in place by gingerly putting on his ball cap. This makeshift compress worked and the bleeding slowed down to more of a seeping, instead of a free flowing situation.

“Now, let's see about the microphone.”  He pulled on the coiled cord with his right hand only to fine that it was stuck on something. When he eventually managed to wangle it free, Jason saw that the microphone was smashed into bits.

“Great. The radio works, but the microphone doesn't.  What now?”

Barney sat by George's side wagging his tail. He seemed to be happy to be with Jason, regardless of the circumstances and that fact alone buoyed Jason's spirits.

“Well, Barney, old pal, let me turn this thing on and hopefully, we'll hear something.”

The makeshift search and rescue team set off from the Bolton's house, each taking their route to Pleasanton.  It was going to be slow going as not only was it snowing, but each team wanted to make sure that they didn't become a casualty to the situation as well.

George Mason acted as the Net Control. He had the explicit permission from the TCRC leadership to take full control of the repeater for as long as this took.  He made an announcement on the repeater, notifying all on frequency of the gravity of the situation and asking for their cooperation.

“This is George Mason N2EBA, Net Control. Search Teams, please respond when called for a radio check”

“Team One – State Highway Nine – how do you copy?”

“Net Control this is Team One, WA2CBA reading you loud and clear.

“Received, Team One. Team Two – Spring Valley Road – how do you copy?”

“Net Control, this is Team Two, K2RBC reading you loud and clear.”

“Received Team Two. Team Three – Old Post Road – how do you copy?”

“Net Control, this is Team Three, AA2AM, you are full quieting.”

“All teams, on my mark, it will be 12:00 Midnight, local time. I will call for status reports every 15 minutes. If you come across anything, at any time, report in as necessary. 1, 2, 3 …... Mark”.

While all this was going on, Jason Bolton had the under dash Icom on scan.  Since it was Christmas Eve, there wasn't much activity on any frequency. Luckily, he heard the net being called up. He muttered a quiet prayer of thanks to God that at least people were looking for him.  But in addition to not being able to talk through his microphone, he also noticed that the culvert he was in was deep enough that he couldn't see the road.  If he couldn't see the road, how would they seem him? This was compounded by the fact that it was snowing just hard enough that any skid marks left on the road would soon be covered. And it was getting cold, very cold.  Barney hunkered even closer to Jason to try and keep warm himself.

Dave and Jim, and the other teams were all more or less halfway to Pleasanton and didn't see anything. In between 15 Minute call-ups, N2EBA kept calling KD2JMJ.

“KD2JMJ this is N2EBA. Jason, if you're out there listening, please call in.”

At the same moment, Jason was thinking to himself, “I would if I could, George, I would if I could. This microphone is a mess …... no way I can call for help.”  Then a thought struck him.  If he could reach into his right rear pocket and get to the pocket knife he always carried, just maybe ….......

He slowly shifted in the car seat.  It was tough going because he was on his side, and hardly had use of his left arm, which was pinned to his side, but he managed to get the knife out. He carefully brought his right hand to his left and then deployed the blade.  He set the knife down in his lap, and then pulled the microphone over.  With a bit of effort he cut the microphone cord, exposing the wires.  He racked his memory, trying to remember which two wires were the ones he needed.  He began toughing them together.

As the teams were driving, they noticed the static that had been plaguing the repeater was back.  Davey  got disgusted with himself. “Geez, I thought we cleared that all up.  Now it's back when we need it the least!”  Jimmy tried to re-assure his friend, “Take is easy Davey. Don't worry about that now.  Just keep a look out for your dad's Jeep”.

Within another hour, the three teams reached Pleasanton. It was 1:00 AM, Christmas morning.  They each met up at the address of the house where Jason had picked up Barney, and they all checked in with George before turning back towards Springdale.

Meanwhile Jason, kept “calling” for help by touching the microphone wires together.  He heard the net's chatter about the interference, so he know he was being heard. But how to get them to notice that is wasn't the repeater problem that his son has fixes, but that it was him?  He decided to keep doing what he was doing and hoped for the best.

Shortly after the six Hams had started on their return trip. George Mason made a call up, well before the scheduled 15 minute interval. “All teams, this is Net Control. I've noticed something about our static problem.  It's not intermittent, like it has been for the past weeks. It seems to be coming in regular intervals. Davey, does your Dad know Morse Code?”

“Net Control, this is AA2AM. No, Mr. Mason, Dad doesn't know Morse Code. He always said he wanted to learn, but never seemed to find the time. What are you thinking?”

“All teams, stand by.  This static is not like before. It used to be random. Now it almost seems to have a rhythm to it.  KD2JMJ, this is N2EBA. Jason if you can hear me, give me one, I repeat, one long burst of static.”

Jason Bolton couldn't believe his ears!  He was hoping against hope they would notice his attempts at a signal and not keep mistaking them for interference. It seems George N2EBA had noticed a rhythm to the static bursts.

“Barney old pal, we're not out of the woods yet, but maybe there's a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The dog noticed Jason's excitement, and let out a bay that beagles are know for. Jason though it was loud enough to wake the dead.

Jason touched the wires together for five seconds, and the stopped.

George waited. “All teams, stand by.  I have to make sure.  KD2JMJ, Jason, if that's you – give me two long bursts of static.”

Jason did as directed. You could hear the excitement in N2EBA's voice but he maintained a calm demeanor.

Davey nearly jumped out of the car seat. “Jimmy, that's my dad!  He's alive!”  Jimmy was glad for his pal, but cautioned him, “Chill Davey, this is good news, but we still have a ways to go. Let's give Mr. Mason some time to work on this.

“OK, Jason.  I'm going to as you a couple of questions – one burst of static for “Yes” and two for “No”. Are you injured?”

Jason Bolton pressed the wires together once.

N2EBA came back, “Are you hurt very badly?”

Two static bursts came back.

The George continued on, “OK, Jason. Listen carefully, we have three teams of Hams looking for you. They've already made the trip from Springdale to Pleasanton and didn't see you. I am guessing your Jeep is no longer on the road. We have one team on State Highway Nine, one on Spring Valley Road and one on Old Post Road.  Is one of those the road that you were on?”

One static burst came back.

“Good man, Jason, good man!  OK, Jason, one burst for the State Highway, two bursts for Spring Valley Road and three for Old Post Road. Go ahead.”

Three static bursts came back.

“All teams, KD2JMJ is somewhere off the side of Old Post Road. Davey and Jimmy, that's your road. Drive slowly and keep a look out. In the meantime, I'll notify the State Police. Teams one and two, please cut on over to Old Post Road and help Team Three.”

The next thing George Mason noticed was Donna Bolton hugging him wildly.  Tears  were streaming down her face and she was speechless.

“He's alive Donna, and not badly hurt, or so it seems.  We'll get him home.”

The next voice heard on the repeater was AA2AM.  “KD2JMJ this is AA2AM.  We didn't see any skid marks on the way to Pleasanton. They must have gotten covered by snow.  If there's any way you can signal us, it would sure help us find you”.

One single static burst came back.  Davey knew his father would signal them somehow, he just had to figure out what that signal would be.

Jimmy drove carefully and purposefully.  They hastened their way through stretches of road where there was flat land on either side of the road. Anywhere there was was a ditch or a culvert, they slowed down.  Davey had opened his window and had a hand held, battery operated search light sweeping the sides of the road.

They were practically half way back to Springdale. And Davey was growing impatient.  “Take it easy, Dave. I know you want to find your dad, but we have to take this slow.”

“I know, Jimmy, I know. But I want to get him out of there and home.”

As they came to the next patch of road that had roadside ditches, Jimmy slowed down some more and Davey opened his window to sweep with the search light.  That's when he heard it.

“Jimmy, did you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“I could swear I heard a dog howling.  Turn around go back up the road a few hundred feet.”

Jimmy did and they saw nothing on the side of the road heading to Pleasanton. They turned around and headed towards Springdale again.

“Jimmy, I heard it again. A dog howling. Stop the car.”

Jimmy stopped and they both got out and walked along the side of the road.

“Jimmy, I can make out skid marks! They're almost covered by the snow!”

The followed the marks and sure enough, there was Jason Bolton's Jeep, on it's side on the ditch.

“Jimmy, I'll go check on dad. You get back to the radio and let Mr. Mason know we found dad!”

Dave scrambled down to the Jeep and gave it a wide berth. He didn't want to make the situation worse. Once he saw the car was stable on it's side and wasn't about it tip over further, he bent down hear the windshield and pointed his searchlight into the car. His Dad was sitting there and Barney was right by his side, his tail wagging a mile a minute.

“Dad, are you OK?”

“I'm pinned in here, Dave. I can't free my left arm and I have a gash on the left side of my head, but I think I'll live. Man, are you a sight for sore eyes!”

Meanwhile, Jimmy called back into N2EBA with the news that they had found Jason Bolton. He reported that they would need a wrecker, an ambulance and the crossroad they were nearest to.  George called the State Police and everything was put in motion. It wasn't long before the Police, EMS and a Fire Rescue team arrived to do the extraction and transport to the hospital.

It was about 6 o'clock Christmas morning, when Jason Bolton arrived at St. Joseph's Regional Hospital, accompanied by Davey and Jimmy.  While Davey went in to be with his dad, Jimmy sat in his warm car with Barney.  A half hour later, George and Jeannie Mason and Donna Bolton and Maria all arrived at the Emergency Room.

In a short while, the ER Doctor on duty came out to the waiting area.

“Mrs. Bolton?” he asked.

Donna got up out of her chair.  “How is he doctor?  Is Jason going to be OK?”

“He's a very lucky man, Mrs. Bolton. He has a few cracked ribs on his left side and a bad contusion on his left arm from hitting the side of the car. And we think he might have had a slight concussion so we're going to keep him here today for observation. Just to make sure everything is OK.”

“Oh thank you so much, Doctor! Can I go in and see him?'

“Sure, But don't stay too long. We're going to be moving him upstairs to a room and he's pretty tired. He's probably going to sleep for a while.”

Davey, Maria and his mom walked into the Emergency Room cubicle.

“Oh, Jason. thank the Lord that you're going to be OK. You scared the living daylights out of me. And all this over a Christmas present? Don't ever do anything like this again!”

Jason tiredly smiled back at her and said, “He's not just a "Christmas present, Honey". Davey, where's Barney?”

Davey said, “Don't worry Dad, he's with Jimmy.  We're going to bring him home with us from here.”

“You're just going to love him, Donna, He's such a good dog. He stayed with me the whole time. He's a rescue dog, you know.”

At that Davey laughed. Maria, and his Mom and Dad all looked at him quizzically.

 “Rescue dog? Who rescued who – I think you might have rescued each other!”

The End

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

A Christmas Rescue – Part Two

The days leading up to Christmas were busy. Dave busied himself by working with the Technical Committee of the Twin Counties Amateur Radio Club to try and solve a problem with the club's repeater. It seems the members would be bothered by an intermittent hash or raspy static at times. Dave, with the help of the other members of the Technical Committee basically took apart and rebuilt the entire repeater, component by component. The checked every connection on the receiver, transmitter, duplexer and just about everywhere else, looking for something obvious. Unfortunately, it seems like it's never anything obvious in cases like these.  They changed connectors, jumper cables and even replaced a few suspect capacitors in the power supply. They hoped it would be enough to alleviate the situation. The only other areas left for troubleshooting were the antenna, tower and feed-line itself. Looking at those during the current were weather pattern were not an option.

It had been snowing everyday since Dave had arrived home from school. Some days more, some days less, but it was still beginning to pile up, even by Springdale standards. This winter was shaping up to be one of the snowiest in Dave's young memory. It made for hazardous driving, but if you took your time and were careful, it wasn't a problem.

Dave was finishing up work on the repeater when he looked at his watch. It was 1:00 PM on Christmas Eve.

“Holy Smokes, Bob, I lost track of the time! I have to get out of here!”

Dave had been working with Bob, KB2VMG. “You're right, Dave, it's getting late. Time files when you're having fun, don't it?” Bob jokingly answered with a wry smile on his face. He was glad they were nearly done, too. Troubleshooting these kind of problems was always a challenge, and sometimes a headache.

“You're headed over to George N2EBA's QTH for dinner tonight, right?”

“That's right Bob.  My family and AA2AJ's will all be there.”

“Well, you have a great time. Get going. You and Jimmy are all George ever talks about. He's so proud of the both of you and all.  Tell him I said “Hello and Merry Christmas.”

Dave blushed a little and said, “Thanks, Bob.  You're all right finishing things up here by yourself? Dinner's not for a while, but I still have a few presents to buy.”

“Don't trouble yourself, Dave.  I just need to put the tools away and wash up. Everything is done here. Between you and me, I think we got the problem licked. Thanks for all your help – I don't think I would have noticed that iffy filter capacitor on the power supply if it weren't for your second set of eyes.”

“Merry Christmas, Bob – to you and your family. I'll see you next week at the regular club meeting.”

Dave set off for his Mother's car and went into town. He needed to buy gifts for his mom and sister, and it was still a new experience for him. Being alone with just his Dad for so many years, he still drew a blank at times when it came to buying gifts for females.  But in this case, he was lucky as he knew exactly what he wanted. A down vest for Maria to wear when she went skiing and some scented candles and soaps for Donna.  They were both pretty easy to buy for. Within an hour or two, he had made his purchases.

As he was driving home, the HT in his pocket came to life.

“AA2AM this is KD2JMJ. You on the air Davey?”

He pulled over to the side of the road. “Don't need to get a ticket for distracted driving on Christmas Eve.” he thought to himself.  “KD2JMJ, this is AA2AM – what's up Dad?”

“His Dad answered, “Davey, I just wanted to give you a heads up. I'm going to have to pick up the beagle late this afternoon. The lady from the shelter in Pleasanton is closing the place early, but she gave me her home address. She's bringing Barney home with her and I'll pick him up from her house. I'll have to leave dinner from the Mason's early though.”

“Isn't that going to be kind of obvious, Dad?  Mom's going to know something's up.”

“Got that all worked out, Davey. Fred from work is going to call me on my cell phone at 6:00 PM. By then we should have finished dinner. A “work emergency” that needs my presence will be the pretense. I'll just head out, pick up Barney and head back home. I should be home by 9:00 PM at the latest.”

“OK, Dad. I'll cover for you, later when the “work emergency” rears its ugly head. I'm just on my way home now. I'll see you in a bit. I think we worked out that problem with the repeater. I think it was either a bad ground or a bad jumper cable. Possibly even a bad filter capacitor in the power supply. The repeater hasn't hashed while we've been on.”

“Very good, Davey! Hey, I guess this EE education I'm paying for is working out!” His Dad loved teasing his son, even though he was practically a full grown adult now.  “See you in a bit, son.  AA2AM, this KD2JMJ, clear. 73, Dave.”

“73, Dad, see you in a few. KD2JMJ, this is AA2AM, clear.”

Dinner at the Mason's was as spectacular as everyone thought it would be. There was enough food to feed the 8th Infantry Division with leftovers to spare. And it was all exceedingly delicious. The Boltons, the Masons and the Stapletons thoroughly enjoyed each others company and the evening.

Everyone agreed to meet at the Bolton's house the next morning for Christmas brunch after Mass.  As everyone was sitting down to dessert and coffee in the living room, Jason Bolton's cell phone rang, as on cue.

“Jason Bolton, speaking. May I help you?” Of course, Fred was on the other end, allowing Jason the opportunity to play the charade out.

“The router and switch are totally down? I'm not sure what I can do at this hour on Christmas Eve. All the techs have probably left the data center for the holiday.  Looks like I'll have to come in and reset them.”

“What's the matter honey?” Donna asked, “Something wrong at work?”

“Yes, dear” Jason answered in feigned exasperation. “One of our client's routers and switches went down at the data center. None of their office door card readers are working and their Security department wants them reset right away. Looks like I'll have to go in.”

“Oh, no – not on Christmas Eve! And the roads – how long do you think it will be?”

Jason looked at his watch. “Well, it's 6 O'clock now. By the time I get there, reset the equipment and then babysit them out for a bit – I should be home by 9 O'clock at the latest, I would think.”

“Well, just be careful, Honey”, Donna said. “I don't like the idea of you out on these roads so late on Christmas Eve.”

“Everything will be fine, Donna. I'll see you in a while. Davey, you monitor the repeater, OK? If I run into any trouble, I'll give you a call. Merry Christmas, everyone! See you at our house tomorrow morning.”

With that, Jason Bolton took off for Pleasanton. The drive went quietly and uneventful. The roads were not all that busy, as everyone was already home for Christmas already. He found the address easily enough and knocked on the door.

“Mrs. Buckley? Hi! I'm Jason Bolton. I'm here for Barney.”

“Mr. Bolton! I'm so happy to see you and so is Barney.”  Barney came bounding up and jumped up onto Jason when he saw him come in the door. His tail was wagging ferociously and he was practically doing somersaults.

“He looks happy to see me.” Jason said.

“Oh yes, Mr. Bolton. Barney is such a good boy. I think he's going to love his new forever home. Let me get you his papers and the carrier.”

Mrs. Buckley was gone for a few minutes and Jason bent down to play with Barney. Barney was alternately licking his face, and then laying down on his back so Jason could give him a tummy rub.

He was laughing softly to himself, thinking “You, my little friend, are going to melt Donna's heart!”

“Here you go, Mr. Bolton! Here are Barney's vaccination and neutering records, as well as the paper about the microchip under his skin. You'll have to call or e-mail the company to let them know your family is now Barney's forever family.”

Jason handed Mrs. Buckley the adoption donation, signed a few papers and then the two of them put Barney into his carrier. That was no chore at all, as Barney was used to being toted around to local pet stores on adoption days.

“Mr. Bolton, you may want to invest in a new carrier for Barney. The latch on that door is kind of cranky. Sometimes, if Barney pushes hard enough, he can open the door.”

“Thanks for the warning. Mrs. Buckley, I'll look into that after Christmas. Thanks so much for everything. My wife is going to love Barney! She always had dogs as a child and Barney is going to be a perfect fit in our home.”

“It's not trouble at all, Mr. Bolton. I'm always glad when a lab beagle finds a forever home. Barney is such a joy, I'm sure he'll fit right in your family.  A lot of our adoptive parents re-name their dogs. Do you think you'll give Barney a new name?”

“No, Mrs. Buckley, somehow Barney seems a perfect fit for him. Thanks so much, again. A very Merry Christmas to you and your family”

With that, Jason put Barney's carrier in the back of the Jeep and headed off for home.  As he was headed towards the state highway, he had heard on the AM news station that he was listening to of some major construction delays. “Who does road work on Christmas Eve?” he thought to himself. At that he decided to take one of the parallel running back roads.  He thought it would probably save him a half hour or so in delays.

He turned on the VHF radio and put it on scan. Maybe he'd hear an interesting conversation or two to pass the time on the way home.  The drive home was going smoothly when all of a sudden, he noticed a car, off in the distance, coming in his direction, and driving erratically. The driver was weaving in and out of the lane. “The guy's probably drunk from some office Christmas party.”, Jason disgustedly thought to himself.  Jason flicked on his high beams and sounded the horn to warn the oncoming driver that he was now in Jason's lane. Coming straight at him, and dangerously fast, it was all Jason could do to jerk the wheel to get out of the way. He had avoided a head-on collision, but in doing so, had hit an icy patch and skidded off the road into a culvert.  He banged his head pretty badly against the side window in the process. All he could see was the world somehow weirdly upside down, and the air bags deploying, as he blacked out.

To be continued ...........

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

A Christmas Rescue – Part One

“AA2AM, AA2AM this is AA2AJ, AA2AJ. Are you there Dave? Over.”

“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!

New Year’s Day 2015

So I began 2015 in a manner not much different from where 2014 left off.  It was a quiet day, as it was a day off from work. It was quite cold here today, but that did not keep me out of the shack. The hoodie sweat shirt idea worked well. Even though it's only 59F (15C) down here, I remained comfortably warm. I think that keeping my head covered was indeed the key to feeling warmer.

I participated in the QRP ARCI New Year's Day Sprint as planned, but was disappointed in the lack of activity.  I guess everyone was sleeping off a night of merry-making and partying. In the 2 & 1/2 hours that I was on the air, I made only over just a dozen QRP ARCI contacts.  It's a good thing that it's SKN, as the bands were busy and I was able to fill in with a couple rag chews in between to keep me from falling asleep at the key.

15 Meters seemed to be the good band for the Sprint. It was less noisy than 20 Meters, and it seemed that it was there that I was hearing the most activity. Towards the end of the Sprint, 40 Meters perked up with some local QRP activity.

After dinner, I came down to participate in a little more SKN, garnering a few rag chews using my refurbished Vibroplex Original.

I was pleasantly surprised that for not having used it in a while, that my fist wasn't all that bad! I cleaned the contacts by rubbing them using a spare QSL card and re-adjusted the spacing and tension. Pretty soon I was sounding almost as good as my keyer and paddles. Notice I said almost, not quite as good as that but not horrid, either. I guess using a bug is like riding a bicycle - once you become comfortable at it, you never forget how.

I finished up the evening by tuning across 30 Meters to hear 1A0C from the Sovereign Order of Malta (Thanks for the clarification, Karl DK5LP) running a pileup. It was a pretty good pileup but he was quite strong - about 579 and getting stronger. I stayed with him for about a 1/2 hour, trying with 5 Watts. As this is a special one for me, I ended up turning up the juice to 85 Watts and nabbed him on my third attempt after that.  The DXpedition is there for about five more days, so I will try again over the weekend using QRP - if I hear them.

The Sovereign Order of Malta is a charitable arm of the Catholic Church.  They have been in existence since around 1050 and are dedicated to helping the sick and poor throughout the world. Recently, Raymond Cardinal Burke was named patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a man whom I admire greatly. It was a special treat to have worked them.

So Amateur Radio-wise, 2015 is off to a flying start. I hope it keeps going that way all year long! Let's see if I can work both Foxes in the 80 Meter Fox hunt tonight. ( I did. Yay! )

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

A Christmas Story – Shep style!

Undoubtedly, most of you are familiar with and may have watched (many times!) the movie "A Christmas Story".

I am hoping that all of you (or at least MOST of you) know that this story was written by one of the most famous Amateur Radio celebrities - Jean Shepherd K2ORS (SK - call re-issued). What you may not know, is that this story originally appeared as only one chapter in Jean's book, "In God We Trust, All Other's Pay Cash".  The story was also published in Playboy magazine (of all places!) under the title "Duel In The Snow, Or, Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid".

Shep, as he was affectionately known, had a long running radio program on WOR-AM radio in NYC when I was a kid. If I remember correctly, it began at 10:00 PM, so we had to listen to it clandestinely, with our trusty transistor radios tucked under our pillows with the earphone running to our ears - as this was way past our appointed bed time. On Christmas Eve of 1974 (when I was a teenager and could listen with no bedtime repercussions), Shep gifted his audience with a reading of this hilarious Holiday tale. Here it is for you to listen to - commercials and all!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Gift ideas for Hams

It's December, and that means Christmas and Hanukkah are right around the corner. And sometimes for a Ham, "The Holidays" presents a quandary.  Imagine this scenario - your lovely XYL comes over to you and asks, "What would you like for Christmas, Dear?"

You look lovingly into her eyes and say, "A 60 foot Rohn tower with a 3 element beam". And then you get THAT look - and you know instantly, in your heart of hearts, that your request has gone over like the proverbial lead balloon.

Or maybe the wife of your best Ham bud calls you and asks, "What can I get Jim for Hanukkah this year? And no, I'm not getting him a 60 foot tower and a 3 element beam".  What do you say? Somehow, I don't think K3, or IC-7800 or FT-DX5000 would go over too well, either.

So, as we get closer to the gift giving season, I'll post some items that I come across that may help break the "What do I get for my favorite Ham?" log jam.  My aim will be to keep to suggest gifts that won't break the gift giving budget while at the same time would be a gift that almost ANY Ham would enjoy receiving.

I came across this one this morning on Facebook (see- Facebook is actually good for something!). I thought this was unique, and I sure wouldn't mind having one of these hanging from my shack wall.

This is a little plaque commemorating the 50th anniversary of the ARRL postage stamp. It was issued by the United States government for two reasons - to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ARRL, and in gratitude of all the valiant work performed by Hams during the Alaskan earthquake ans tsunami that occurred that year.

You can get this little beauty from  It's reasonably priced and will not break the bank.

Suppose you are a CW aficionado, or perhaps your Ham bud is.  The following is always a perennial favorite - the Morse Express Christmas Key.

The above photo is the key being offered for 2014.  These keys are small enough to be used as a Christmas Tree ornament, but yet are fully functional. One of my most favorite straight keys of all times is the 2004 Christmas Key which my lovely Marianne gave me that year. It has a fantastic feel to it and is perfect as a traveling portable QRP ops straight key.

Please note that I am in no way connected with any of the companies offering these fine wares. I receive no recompense and I have not even been asked to endorse any of these items. This is just W2LJ offering a public service to those of you out there who may be stymied by either of these two  questions - "What can I give?" or "What would you like?".

To be continued as I come across neat stuff!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

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