Paul M Dunphy, VE1DX
(in memory of my friend Hugh Cassidy, WA6AUD)
One of the Local QRPers came around the bend, holding on to his hat to stop it from being blown away in the wind. He came up to the door and started banging, and a lot harder than usual. We could have avoided a long discussion by ducking out the back door, but when it comes to DX and QRPers, usually there is something interesting to be learned. So we opened the door and said, “Come in before the wind blows the door off of its hinges!”
The QRPer came in, glared at us with his beady little eyes and nodded toward the shack. It was clear he wanted to talk about DX, and that he wasn’t interested in any small talk. We sat down in front of the rig and he grabbed the chair beside us. “Sure will be nice when the sunspots come back”, we said, starting off on neutral ground. He glared at us again and then said, “Sunspots or no sunspots, we won’t work any DX until there are any decent DXpeditions!”
We had a good idea where he was coming from, but we decided to wait. “I haven’t worked a new one in almost a year”, he said, shaking his head back and forth and holding up his hands in frustration. “Sometimes it goes that way when your country total is high and the solar flux is low” we replied, “and there isn’t a lot you can do about it.” This seemed to make the QRPer even more frustrated and he snapped back, “No, it isn’t that there is no DX to work, and there are enough of sunspots left too. It’s that DXpedition in the Pacific that’s on right now! What a bunch of lousy operators! They don’t understand propagation. They were 59 here yesterday and all they worked were JAs! They must have worked every JA station in the callbook! And they wouldn’t take anyone else, either.”
Son of a Gun! We didn’t remember them being 59 yesterday. In fact, we didn’t remember hearing them at all. We were regretting not running out the back door, but there was no escape now. So we simply said, “They’ve only been on a few days and they’ll be there another week. Probably they have really good propagation to JA, and they want to work the pileup down in that direction. Tomorrow or the next day they’ll likely be beaming at us and at Europe. Every DXpedition starts out that way and by the end they are calling CQ with no takers. You’ll get them in the log eventually.”
The QRPer was not to be pacified. “No, I bet we won’t work them. Every time they do call for NA, it’s always in the middle of the night when the band is closed tight! I know because I watched all the spots on the DX Cluster and all of the Announcements from the other DXers. If you had read all the Cluster Announcements, you’d understand the problem!” He was jabbing his finger at us to drive home the point, and there was sweat dripping from his forehead.
We decided that there was no resolving this one, so we did what we always did when faced with an irate QRPer. We hauled him up the hill to see the Old Timer. There the same story was repeated again. The Old Timer didn’t even take off his headphones and continued to tune 20 meters. But he was listening to every word. Absolutely! When the QRPer had run out of steam, ending with, “And so you see, I’ll never work them!”, the Old Timer turned in his chair and took off the headphones. “You say you found all this out by reading the DX Cluster Announcements?” he asked slowly.
“Yes!” the QRPer replied, “There is a new one every few minutes telling us that they are working JA only, or that they are calling for NA when there is no propagation. And some of the guys putting out these announcements say it is a poor operation and the operators are LIDS! So how do you expect me to ever get a QSO?”
“You could try turning off the Announcements on your Cluster and listening to the rig”, came the reply. The QRPer looked at the Old Timer with a puzzled stare and asked, “What?” But the Old Timer had the head phones back on and was listening on the low end of 20. It was clear he wasn’t going to say anymore. We looked at the QRPer knowingly, for when the Old Timer speaks it is like someone turns on a flashlight in a dark room. And yet somehow we sensed the QRPer was still in complete darkness.
As we walked down the hill, the QRPer asked us, “What is he talking about?” What could we say? When the answer is so clear that it is like the words were chiselled in stone, there is no more to add. So we simply said, “It is one of the Eternal Enigmas of DXing and a Mystery of the Ages.” The QRPer stopped dead in his tracks and glared at us. “Why do you always talk in riddles? Why can’t you answer a simple question?” And before we had a chance to reply, he stomped back down the hill and around the bend, holding his cap in place with one arm and swinging the other one wildly.
We went back into the shack and looked at the Cluster screen. There were lots of DX spots, but no Announcements. We thought back to the day several years ago when the weather was warmer and the sunspots were more plentiful. We recalled sitting on the veranda with the Old Timer sipping iced tea, and of the satisfaction we had both found with a simple SET/NOANN command! DX IS! But for some more than others, and even less so for those who waste their time reading DX Cluster Announcements!
This story is in the public domain and may be reproduced in any format. - VE1DX
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Last updated 15 December 2020