The Old Refrain

By WA6AUD and VE1DX

    One of the Locals was by last week and we sat in the shade of the big oak tree and just talked. Mostly about DXing. Our friend was not especially bubbling with joy.

    "Whatever happened to the good old days", this QRPer asked, "the days when every country was new and the bands were open twenty four hours a day, even ten meters. And two meters was alive and DXers were always there to talk or listen. What happened?"

    Maybe it is true, as they say, that the best therapy is talk. We urged this one to tell us more.

    "Look at the activity of the local DXers", this Local said, "remember when we used to have big crowds at every Flea Market DX booth, club meeting, and dozens for every DX get together. And on the local DX repeater, where we all hung out, the fights, the arguments and the general chaos, you never were sure what was going on but it sure was fun and exciting. What happened?"

    We said nothing, just planning to keep silent and to remember some of those good old days long gone. Like the time that one of the local Big Guns was fuming because the operator of a DX station had become a SK before he had confirmed a certain six meter QSO. Or when the short lived ZL8 of '91 came up out of the noise of 15 meters for about ten minutes and asked for five stations from each call area. The Big Guns with the monobanders and kilowatts worked him one after another just as he was fading away, never to be heard on the east coast again. And then they came on the DX repeater and said "Heck, that wasn't even a new prefix." We recalled having to take the ropes away from a couple of the QRPers. We couldn't find lynching in the Amateur's Code, even when one is scooped for a new one. We even looked in the ARRL operating manual on this one. No ropes. So, we had convinced the QRPers that another ZL8 would come around again, although maybe not for some time. And one had. They always do.

    Or when one or two of us would turn off the two meter rig over some perceived slight, vowing never to speak of DX again. Only to recant a week later and be back making land line calls to the same ones who had upset us . . . making sure they didn't miss that new one on 10 meters. DXers are forgiving. Sometimes.

    Or the time when one or two of the DXers made a comment that some of the Locals were working all the DX on phone, and that true DXers only worked CW. And these comments upset a couple of the QRPers to the point where they tuned their two meter rigs off the spotting repeater for up to a month. One of them is still mad about it! The next day he started working CW exclusively and the last we heard, he was approaching Honor Roll on CW. And he still hates the mode. Absolutely. But he is a stubborn QRPer and we have no doubt he won't stop until he has them all worked. He's a happy QRPer. Make no mistake about it. DXing is fun, more so when you are both stubborn and happy.

    Then there was the advent of our local Packet Cluster. We recalled there had been a lot of controversy over that. Maybe there still is. The Old Timer and even a few of the newly minted QRPers swore they'd never have anything to do with packet and computers. Never! This was cheating! And nothing short of it, either. There was no convincing them otherwise. Having a DX station's call and operating frequency pop up on a computer screen? Not in my shack, pal! Even Red-Eyed Louie vowed never to be caught with a computer. Real DXers tuned the bands and found it by themselves. For sure.

    We thought back at how they all stuck to their guns, too. Some for a month, the more stubborn ones even for a couple of years. And it wasn't until they started comparing their DXCC totals to those on packet that their dislike of computers began to wane. And, one after another, they all saw the light, became Believers, and joined the Anointed Ones. Some became packet gurus, looking down at their screens with a steely glare, daring anyone to remind them of their recent conversion. From a distance, that is.

    We snapped back to the present and turned our attention to the Local who had asked the questions. This one, an industrious DXer, had turned out to be a good member and a good DXer. He, over the years following, had often been helpful to others. And remembering our own good times from earlier in the century was not doing our visitor any good. "Just what bothers you", we asked to wind him up again, "and what do you think should be done" It was a good move.

    "You know what I think", the Local said and indeed he was right. We had heard the litany recited before but, having said that, the Local was again in his pulpit for another go-round.

    "Look at packet radio", the Local started in, "look at what has happened to two meters. Once it would crackle all day and most of the night. Now hardly anyone is to be found there. Right?"

    He won our vote. Two meters is not what it used to be and with packet radio one can check a whole day's action in a few minutes and even without having to listen on the bands. Or even two meters for that matter.

    "And the meetings and DX repeater and going to lunch after the flea markets", the Local continued after drawing a deep breath, "they are not what they used to be. Back in the good old days, things were fun and most of us DXers would come early and stay late. And remember the night that Don Miller was there with that other fellow, remember the crowd that night and the almost non-stop cheering that rattled downtown San Mateo. Remember?"

    Of course we remembered. Those were good old days but the good old days are gone and no new ones are left. Maybe it gets like some fellows tell of WWII and the good times they had in the service. Like the fellow in the club who says that after the war in Europe ended the Air Force lost him for four months in Paris. He only surfaced when his name came up on shipping orders to go home. Often these stories get better with the years.

    There always seems to be someone around who says he found the good times even at the bottom of Maunder Minimum II. But before we had to run that route again, the Old Timer came up the hill on his way home and stopped by for a few minutes.

    Our Local set out to enlist the Old Timer in his cause. It was a good pitch. We could see that the Old Timer was listening. Finally the Local asked the Old Timer just what he thought might have happened.

    The Old Timer thought a bit, stood up preparing to leave and only said: "They don't sing the old songs anymore". And he was gone.

    For awhile there was a bit of silence. Then the Local asked: "What was that supposed to mean?"

    What could we say? We knew what the Old Timer was saying. Always somewhere there is a band playing "Roses of Picardy". Some hear it and understand. Others hear it and do not understand. And they have to ask why.

    Why?


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