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Jim Kehler, KH2D

Here is another extract from Jim Kehler’s web site, designed as always to help us keep things in proportion…

I was wading through my e-mail this morning and I saw those two catchy words again - ‘the deserving’. Now for you new hams, and you guys who aren’t avid DX chasers, I guess I should explain what those two words mean.

Those two simple words define all the hams everywhere who have such an unglamorous life that all they get to do is stay home, shovel snow, sit in front of the radio, scream their callsign into the pileup, hope they are lucky enough to get that proverbial ‘new one’ for the coveted DXCC award, and write cheques.

Celebrity status, as it relates to ham radio, is something that I have really never totally understood but I’ll explain it as best I can. I understand why we considered Senator Barry Goldwater a celebrity; he had reached celebrity status in real life, he was a ham, and he did some good things for ham radio in Washington, D.C. But we have a tendency to make ordinary people celebrities just because they are one of those hams who’s main concern in life is to take care of ‘the deserving’. Why do we do that? What do these ordinary hams do to become ham radio celebrities? Simple. They earn celebrity status by risking life and limb with total disregard for seasickness, shipwrecks, aircraft disasters, famine, floods, earthquakes, typhoons, and by spending thousands of dollars to travel to remote, awful places at the far ends of the globe to talk on the radio. Really these guys are anything but ordinary. After seven days in a leaky sailboat, suffering the entire time from violent seasickness, they still can swim to the beach carrying two Alfalfa amplifiers on their back. And they aren’t even breathing hard after they’ve climbed to the peak of the two hundred foot cliff and reached the low-band tent. Every one of them can shinny up a fifty foot pole with a tribander in one hand and a rotor in the other hand, while clutching the coax and rotor cables in their teeth, and install the whole mess in less than five minutes with only a pair of rusty vice grips. They can install four-square arrays in ninety mile an hour winds and dig through two hundred yards of twelve foot deep snow drifts with their bare hands to refuel the generator. They work pileups non-stop for seven days and six nights, never even thinking about stopping to sleep and with nothing to eat but the mosquitoes that land on their upper lip. And they do it all just for you, ‘the deserving’!

I like to work DX as much as the next guy does. I guess it’s safe to say I’m not as serious as some other DXers, I don’t lose any sleep over not working a new one and I’ve never bothered to mail my cards to anybody so they would send me a piece of paper. But if I hear a new one on, I’ll jump right in with the rest of guys and yell for a while. I enjoy slowly tuning around late at night with my beam pointed to far off places, with the headset on so I won’t wake anyone else in the house, hoping to find that rare one as he calls his first CQ. And one of the things I have noticed about life, in general, is that there always seem to be people who are trying to fool other people, but sometimes they wind up fooling themselves as well.

About fifteen years ago, I moved to a little island in the Pacific called Guam. Wasn’t really a career move, and I was only going to be here for a year. But I’m still here. Before I came to Guam, I was WB3IXC in Maryland, and like the rest of ‘the deserving’, I’d wait for the celebrities to go on another trip and I’d yell and scream to work them. Sometimes I’d call CQ ‘til I turned blue but when you are one of ‘the deserving’ you don’t really expect any DX to answer your CQs anyway.

When I got to Guam, the first ham I met was Harvey, KH2A. I’d brought my radio with me, but hadn’t had a chance to put up any antennas and operate. One weekend Harvey and I were looking for something to do, and he suggested I use his station to operate a little bit. It’s hard to come up with the right words to describe my first weekend on the radio from Guam. Exhilarating. Awesome. Adrenaline-filled. Amazing. Fun. No more CQ ‘til I turn blue - just CQ one time and it seemed like the whole world was calling at once.

Harvey and I spent a few hours in the shack on Saturday afternoon, went and got some of those world famous Guam ribs for dinner, spent a few more hours on the air that evening, and I was back at it again on Sunday. When the smoke cleared, I had worked over 900 stations - and it wasn’t even a contest weekend!

I didn’t figure out until years later that I had discovered a well-kept secret that weekend, a secret that most of ‘the deserving’ never find out about, and a secret that all the ham radio celebrities know full well. And thousands of QSOs later I figured out another secret that even a lot of the ham radio celebrities never figure out.

A while back I mentioned that one of the functions of ‘the deserving’ was to write cheques. What does writing cheques have to do with DXing? Well here’s how the program works. The other thing that was mentioned in that e-mail I told you about was that this particular group of ham radio celebrities needed a mere $30,000.00 (US) to pay for the next trip they were going on. And since the only reason they were going was for the benefit of ‘the deserving’, then naturally they felt that ‘the deserving’ should finance the trip. So they were asking me to get out my chequebook.

Well, I did send them back an e-mail explaining that I knew the secret, and that since I did know the secret, I wasn’t going to send them a cheque. Then I started thinking about thousands of my fellow hams, all over the world, shovelling snow, sitting at home in front of their radios, yelling in the pileup, and facing the horrible fate of forever being only another one of ‘the deserving’. And then I decided that ‘the deserving’ everywhere deserve to know the secret too.

If I sent you an e-mail and said I was going to Hawaii on a three week vacation, I was going to enjoy the warm weather, hang around the beautiful beach and watch the babes, eat some great food I don’t normally get to eat, do some shopping, and really enjoy myself, how fast would you reach for your chequebook and send me a donation to help pay for my trip ?

If I sent you an e-mail and told you I was going to a tropical island in the Pacific where I was going to enjoy the warm weather, hang around the beautiful beach and watch the babes, eat some great food I normally don’t get to eat, and have an exhilarating, awesome, adrenaline filled, amazing, fun three weeks working pileups on the radio I don’t normally get to work at home, how fast would you reach for your chequebook and send me a donation to help pay for my trip ?

And if I sent you an e-mail saying that I was going to risk life and limb, tote tons of equipment on my back, get eaten by mosquitoes, gamble everything I value in my life to visit some God awful stinking little good for nothing tropical island in the middle of the Pacific and be totally miserable sweating in front of a radio for three weeks with nothing to eat but stale cookies and warm sodas just so you – ‘the deserving’ - can get a new one, how fast would you reach for your chequebook to send me a donation to help pay for my trip that I’m going on only for you?

So there you have it. You now know the age-old secret of ham radio celebrities. The secret is how they word their email...

You know the great thing about being here in Guam for all these years and being a ham is not just that first weekend that I got on the air. Lots of other hams have come and gone in the years I’ve been here, and it’s been a very enjoyable experience to watch their reactions to that first weekend on the air from Guam too. Some of them walk away from that first time at the radio simply amazed - others walk away with their heads so swollen up that it makes you think they will never be able to wear a hat again. For them the adrenaline rush is so great that they would do anything to make it happen again - kind of reminds me of those drug addicts you see on TV. Some have been inflicted with such violent cases of ham radio celebrityitis that they’ve left here years later thinking they were world famous and would be forever.

One of the worst things about being a ham radio celebrity, I guess, is having to go home when the trip is over and transform yourself back into being one of ‘the deserving’. Some guys never seem to fully make the transition back again - you see signs of that on web pages and in e-mail signature files all the time - Home Call /Celebrity Call/Celebrity Call. Sad, sort of, seems to me like it says "I’m nobody now / I once was somebody". If you stop and think about it, the truth is we are all somebody, we just happen to be in different places. And if we traded places, we’d all still be just us. Anyway, I give all the new guys over here the same advice. It’s that secret that a lot of ham radio celebrities never figure out that I mentioned a while back. Whenever you get in the operating position at the business end of the a pileup on that rare little island, you need only remember one thing. All those people who are screaming in your headset are not calling you. They are calling your QSL card. Remember that and you’ll still be able to wear your hat on cold days when you’re back home shovelling snow.

Most times we don’t get to see situations from ‘both sides of the fence’. I feel lucky that I’ve been fortunate enough to see ham radio from a few very different vantage points. If you ever get the chance to go on a trip to some rare little place and operate on the ham bands, I would highly recommend that you do it. If you’ve never been the operator at the business end of a pileup, it’s something you have to experience yourself to fully understand and appreciate. Pay for the trip yourself and I’ll guarantee that it will be an exhilarating, awesome, adrenaline filled, amazing, fun filled experience that’s worth every penny you spend. Remember what I said about QSL cards and you won’t have any problems when you get back home. Oh, and if you ever decide that you really need a card from KH6, send me a cheque and I’ll stick it in my travel fund. I love Hawaii.

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