Only a DXer Understands QSLs

Only woe and despair I have to tell
For try as I may there's no QSL
I send direct, I send by bureau
"DX DX DX", my brow does furrow
What's the point, there's no QSL

    One of the Local QRPers came by the other day and began looking at our QSL collection on the wall of the shack. He was in a nonchalant mood and whistling away, for he had just got his 150-country sticker from the folks at Newington. And he had two more confirmations since. "Won't be long before I hit 175, right?", and we had to nod in agreement. As the QRPer looked over our QSLs we began to think of the days when we had worked our first hundred, and then two hundred, and onwards. It had been great, with Gus and Don popping up from here and there, usually unannounced, and then the mega-DXPeditions by Martti and Tony and Bob. We were deep in thought, deep in the "DX moment" when we were jolted back to reality.

    "Where'd you get that card!!", the QRPer bellowed, followed by an explicative that would raise the eyebrows of a seasoned sailor . . . or maybe even a DX-list taker! The QRPer went from a happy-go-lucky DXer to a screaming banshee in the space of a few seconds. We stood up, looked at the QRPer sternly and said in a sharp voice, "That will be quite enough of that." We sat him down and explained that there would be no DX advice today or any other day if he used that sort of language. He took a deep breath, looked down at the floor for a few seconds and then said, "You're right, it's not proper behavior for a true-blue DXer. It's just so frustrating to want and to know having is impossible, then to see that someone else has it." We had him calmed down by now and, although it had provoked the outburst to begin with, we had to know what it was about our QSL collection that had started it.

    "Now", we began, glancing at the collection of cards, "which card is it that's the problem?" The QRPer jumped up and pointed at one of our fairly rare ones and said, "That one. That one right there! He doesn't QSL. Never has and never will. I've sent to him at least four times, and three of them were direct. Nothing ever came back." Often one tends to believe that if one person knows something, everyone knows it. This is not necessarily so. But before we could pass along some of the Enlightenment of the Ages to the QRPer, we were confronted with a "There's another one! Why no QSLs ever even come out of that country, let alone that particular station."

    Son of a Gun! We noticed the QRPer was starting to glare at a couple more cards we'd picked up contesting and we decided we had to slow down the avalanche. We walked him outside and onto the veranda, out of site of our shack and the apparent source of his frustration. "That first card you pointed out", we began, "the one you said you sent for three or four times direct. What did you do different with it than those that came back? The QRPer looked at us thoughtfully, then answered, "Nothing. Nothing at all. That's why he I say he never QSLs."

    "And most of your first 100 were bureau cards, right? For the most part, easy stuff that there was no reason to send direct. Is that correct?" The QRPer thought a moment, and thinking he saw where we were headed, gave us that beady-eyed look and replied: "But I didn't get them all by the bureau! No-sirreee! I bet I got at least 40, maybe 50 direct!", he said, "but it wasn't easy."

    "These direct ones", we pressed him, "were they usually to stateside managers with SASEs?" "Of course!", the QRPer retorted, "I learned early in the game that you have to put a SASE in for the manager or he won't return your card. And it makes sense too. All he has to do is pop your QSL in and drop it in the mail." We nodded in agreement. "So where you ran into trouble was with QSLing direct to overseas stations?"

    "That's right, Buster! But I've learned all the tricks!", he began, and he was on a roll. "First off, don't give me that nonsense about US stamps not working in foreign countries. Everyone knows that! I simply didn't put one on. I only got the odd one back until someone pointed out that the DX station still needed postage. So I went to the post office and got a fist-full of IRCs. That helped a lot, but I still only got a return rate of about half. Then someone said that green stamps were as good as IRCs, maybe even better because some countries don't honor IRCs. So I switched to US ones! Every direct QSL that's left my shack in the past year has a crisp new green stamp. And you know what? My success rate is no better than with IRCs. Not one bit. The only conclusion I can draw is that half the overseas operators are dishonest and are keeping my IRCs and money!"

    Then he stood up, drew himself up to his full five and a half feet and glared right into our eyes: "And from the looks of the evidence I see on your wall, you must be in cahoots with them! At least five of the cards on your wall are from stations who stiffed me more than once. What do you so called Big-Gun DXers do? Send the rare DX stations a list of calls from those of us just beginning, telling them we'll send again and then you guys split the profit! Is that's what all you Honor Roll types do?"

    We began to feel an anger beating in us and it took all we could do not to stare right back at the QRPer and give him a piece of our mind! And we were equally stuck with the option of offering him the trade secrets, like the value of IRCs and US currency in the far reaches of those DX lands. Or maybe a bit of advice on callsigns on envelopes . . . and a few other tricks us "Big-Gun DXers" and learned with the experience of years. What did we do? Neither!

    We recalled the advice of Hendrik and Albert, who both knew that all things were relative. Albert, in particular, knew this well and had often said that DX and QSLs were relative things, and for some more so. So we just stared at the QRPer as he stormed off down the hill, teeth clenched and arms waving. We went back into the shack, glanced at our QSLs, shrugged, and made our way down toward the barrancas of Palos Verdes country. We had decided to check on the progress of Cycle 23 . . . and who would know better than the Leader of the Palos Verdes Sundancers! And while the QRPer had tried our patience, he had also rekindled the fires of the Golden Days of DXing, when we lived for DX! When all DX types were up before every dawn listening for the Indian Ocean and the deep Russians. DX IS! Even if you don't get them confirmed . . .


This story is in the public domain and may be reproduced in any format. - VE1DX

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Last updated on Thursday, 12 April 2007