… aaand that’s pretty much how I felt at my first field day! I attended SWDCARC‘s this year, and I was totally the new kid at school. Before, I only THOUGT I had a lot to learn. Now, after field day, I KNOW I have a lot to learn. From Jerry’s (KB6OJE) most patient tutelage at the GOTA station to Larry’s (KY5S) dizzying and encyclopedic knowledge of antennas, I was kept in a constant state of wide-eyed wonderment. I felt like the dog in the movie UP, seeing squirrels around every corner, or the crow in The Secret of Nimh constantly distracted by the next shiny object and dropping the one already in hand. I couldn’t decide which part of field day I wanted to play in the most, so I started splitting my time between them all. What can I say, I like to have AND eat my cake (never did understand that saying).
My main spot was at the GOTA (G.et O.n T.he A.ir) station. Jerry (KB6OJE) was the main man at that station, and after 5 minutes I knew why. The man seems to have an infinite level of patience, and he really knows how to teach the basics of ham radio without you feeling like you’ve been taught. From kids to adults, non-hams to hams who haven’t been on the air in a while, he treated everyone with the same level of care and personal attention. When I sat at his station, I never felt rushed or pressured in any way. It was my first contesting experience and was so much fun, due largely to Jerry. What a joy!
However, I am about to throw him a little ways under the bus. When he and I were getting set up and testing the radio prior to the official start, we could hear some one doing their own contest out of Estonia on the 20 meter band. We could hear him just fine, but we just weren’t getting through to him. Jerry said it was due to us only being on 100 watts where everyone else was pushing 1500 or so, but we persisted and tried and tried again. After some time of this, I hazarded out that maybe he couldn’t hear us even if there was no body else interfering. Jerry just calmly repeated that it was due to stronger signals prevailing. Hey, I’m a newbie, so I nodded sagely and respectfully concurred with him. After a time we gave up trying to get this particular QSO and I went to see what the CW folks were doing. When I got back, Jerry paused, looked at me deadpan, and said that I was right, Estonia couldn’t hear us. Not a little bit surprised that I was correct about anything ham, I enquired how he knew this. He then pointed at the floor in the corner of the room and said “Because our 20 meter antenna is right there.” Sure enough, coiled smugly in the corner was our antenna.
I do so love hams who can laugh at themselves. Gives me hope for the enjoyment of my own inevitable mistakes.
I did eventually make a contact but didn’t want to hog the station so stepped off and then never managed to get back as I had to leave and couldn’t get back on Sunday. C’est la vie, life happens but I’m so very looking forward to next year’s Field Day. I’m determined to be proficient enough in Morse to man the CW station next year. Now THOSE guys take their fun seriously! Or maybe the serious faces were just due to the concentration needed to listen to the CW signals.
Either way, that part really intrigues me, so that’s where you’ll find me next go-round. Steve (KF5RYI), warned me that if I listened to the CW station long enough, I’d be hearing code for days afterward. Sure enough, that night when I was going to sleep, I could’ve sworn my air conditioner was trying to speak to me in Morse Code.
Honestly, so much went into Field Day that, a month later, I’m still processing everything I saw and heard. All the men and women of the club worked tirelessly throughout the whole weekend, and made the whole thing a very special event. Hats off to everyone who came and worked it. It really hit home that I’ve picked a great hobby to get involved with. I mean really, without the ham community, who would we have to speak to on the radio?
To all new hams like me, welcome home! To all old hams (I use the term loosely), thank you for events like this and for keeping this wonderful craft alive!