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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

The Roundtable

from Don Keith, N4KC on July 26, 2011
Website: http://www.n4kc.com/
View comments about this article!

The Roundtable
A short story by, Don Keith N4KC

Nobody really remembers when the group first started meeting, heating up the band with their conversation, jokes and carryings-on. A couple of guys began chatting most evenings just below 3900 on the 75-meter band. Others dropped by when they could-some of them long-time friends of the first stations, others total strangers who just joined in to give an opinion or ask a question or get a signal report-and over the years, hams came and went, but the roundtable mostly grew, regardless the status of the sunspots or what else was going on in the world.

The topics were all over the spectrum, though politics and religion were mostly avoided. So were medical conditions unless one of the members was having particularly threatening issues or had a funny story to tell about his gall bladder. Some went SK. Some went inactive. Others moved to other bands or modes, drifted back in every once in a while, or simply faded away.

But for years, the group still showed up most evenings, anywhere from just-after-supper to late, late, late. Weekends and holidays, the roundtable sometimes carried over into the wee hours of the next day. Some nights there were only a pair or three stations. Some nights there were a couple dozen. And stations checked in from Colorado to Florida, Canada to New Mexico. Summers were slowest with all the crunching of the QRN. Sometimes it was tough when the band "went long" in the winter evenings, but sometimes European stations or ops from the Caribbean or South America hopped aboard and contributed. No matter, the nightly roundtable carried on, an almost unstoppable force.

It was informal and friendly. If someone got out of line, he was gently chastised. Jammers and tuner-uppers occasionally did their thing but everyone learned early that if these disturbed individuals were totally ignored, they always moved on. Everyone understood that those guys did what they did for attention. When they got none, they went elsewhere.

Joe from St. Louis and Claude from Louisville were the informal heads of the group. They had good stations and their central locations were handy when the band went squirrelly. They were both natural storytellers, too, with senses of humor that seemed to make the transition from audio to RF and back to audio just fine.

But there really was no "net control." Anytime there were more than a few stations, the group dispensed with the formal rotation and just went to a conversational "speak up" format, like a group of friends gathered on somebody's deck, having a chat. Some nights, when everybody IDed at the same time, it sounded like an odd chorus singing a strange, discordant tune, with even the cricket chirps of a few CW identifiers mixed in.

The topic one particular night centered-as it often did-on antennas. Joe was talking about his latest addition to the antenna farm, a skywire horizontal loop, 260 feet of copper wire strung from tree to tree in his backyard. Someone had just asked him what kind of antenna seeds he had planted to grow such a monstrosity when a new and very tentative voice edged in amidst all the noise on the band.

"That's a great antenna, very quiet. Uh…hi, fellas. This is K4NSD."

"Well, good evening, K4NSD. 'Never Say Die!' Welcome in. I don't think we've had the pleasure before, and you know by coming into this group, you immediately bring doubt and suspicion about your sanity, right?"

"Thanks, Joe. Uh…well…I feel like I know all you guys. I've been lurking out here for a long time now and this is the first time I've piped up."

"Glad you came in," Claude chimed in. "What's the name and location?"

"It's Tommy. I'm in Nashville. The truth is, I'm a new ham. I just got my license a couple of months ago and you guys are my first contact on HF."

There was a burst of congratulations and welcomes and "what took you so long to key that mike?" from the assembled group of amateurs.

"Well, I had to build up my nerve, you know!" Tommy said. "Took me a while to get up an antenna, too, and I went with the skywire loop, mostly based on what I heard you guys talking about here every night."

"Well, Tommy, I hope we haven't led you astray in other areas!" one of the other members kidded. "If I had known you were lurking out there, I might've convinced you to do an extended double zep…"

And the antenna conversation went on.

From that evening on, K4NSD became a regular member of the group and was soon one of the favorites. For the first month or so, it was mostly questions, but then he was offering constructive advice on his own. It was clear he was studying, learning, growing in the hobby. He sometimes brought back stories of DX exploits on other bands, not bragging but sharing. Or word of how he had been of help on the Maritime Mobile Net on 20 meters or an anecdote of something that happened on one of the mobile-assist nets on 40. He was a good storyteller, a good listener as most good storytellers are, and was soon regarded as one of the roundtable's regulars.

Finally one night, curiosity got the best of one of the other regular nightly participants.

"Tommy, I don't remember you ever telling us what you do for a living," the op noted. "We're usually real nosy about such things, and you seem to have a lot more ham radio time than us guys out there working to pay Uncle Sam."

There was an abnormally long pause, a few bursts of static, a distant heterodyne somewhere up the band a ways.

"Aw, I work from home," Tommy finally answered. "I take lots of breaks and seems like the radio just draws me to it. Y'all can identify with that, I betcha. This ham radio is addictive! By the way, I've been thinking about a vertical for 40 meters and I was wondering your thoughts on radials if I…"

Several months later, somebody noticed K4NSD had not checked in for a few nights. That was unusual. And the group had come to enjoy his stories and encouragement. Tommy always offered good conversation, excellent insight, and a keen sense of humor that had quickly made him one of the favorites of the bunch. He was missed when he didn't join in.

On Sunday night, there he was, though, chipper as ever, with news about an article he had tracked down on the Internet about balun design.

"Tommy, we missed you the last few days," Claude told him. "We were afraid you had stuck your hand in the high voltage on that amp or something."

"Not even a newbie like me would do something that dumb, Claude," Tommy responded with a laugh. "I had to be out of town for a few days. No big deal."
And that was that.

Then, six months or so later, one of the group regulars, Bill, who lived in Western Kentucky, had an announcement for the bunch.

"Guys, we are driving down to Mobile to take a cruise, and I was thinking we'd stop along the way to eye-ball a couple of you so-and-sos. Even though that might completely destroy the lofty image I have of some of you. But at least it would give you a chance to see how handsome and well-preserved I am for a man of my advanced age. Tommy, we'll be coming right through Nashville and I'd love to stop in, visit for a few minutes, and buy you a glass of sweet tea."

The band was filled with static crashes, a bit of splatter from somebody down the band giving his compressor a good workout. Then Tommy finally piped up.

"When did you say you all were coming through?" Bill told him the date. "Aw, heck! I've…uh…got to be out of town that day."

"Well, how about on the way back through? That'll be Sunday, the 11th, if we don't get hijacked by pirates or I decide to run off with one of those beautiful bikini gals in Cancun."

Another pause. Nobody said anything, waiting for Tommy's answer.

"Man, Bill, I'm missing you every which way. I've got some business stuff going on that day that will tie me up all day."

"Can't you see he's avoiding you, Bill?" Claude opined.

"He sure is, coming up with work on Sunday," Bill kidded. "I'm about to get my feelings hurt and you all know how danged sensitive I am."

"I'm sorry, Bill," K4NSD jumped in quickly, his voice far more serious than the other ham's. "I'd love to meet you, and I really am partial to sweet iced tea, and especially when somebody else is buying. Let's make it for sure the very next time you come through. By the way, you taking a radio with you on the trip? You thought about trying to do something from the cruise ship or…?"

This time, everybody on the group that night noticed how quickly and obviously Tommy had changed the subject. But then the topics flowed, K4NSD was his usual great conversationalist, and before long, they were wrapped up in the QSO-mostly led by K4NSD-and they thought no more about it.

Tommy always seemed to have something to add to the conversation, regardless the theme of the evening. Especially interesting were his recounting of QSOs with his friends across the country and around the world on the other bands. Before long, most members of the 80-meter roundtable felt they knew Charles in Vancouver, Vic, the sheep rancher in ZL-land, and Barney, the antique-car collector and avid DXer from Wales just as well as Tommy did, all based on his descriptions of them.

One of the guys brought up Tommy's employment again after K4NSD told of a three-hour chat he had had earlier that afternoon. It had been with an interesting fellow who lived thirty miles north of Moscow and whose father had fought against Hitler in World War II.

"Tommy, I'd like to know how you keep from getting fired," the roundtable member remarked. "I spend three hours doing anything but putting together cars on an assembly line, my boss sends me packing."

A rare, long silence again. Only a bit of splatter swirling around in the QRN.

Then Tommy responded with his usual booming signal and smooth audio.

"Remember, I'm…uh…self-employed. That means I have an idiot for a boss and a fool for an employee!"

Several guffaws cracked open VOXes and the chat turned toward jobs, bosses, and employees.

Then Tommy was not on the roundtable for a week during in mid- August. Some speculated he might be on vacation. Others wondered if he had rig or antenna trouble, though he certainly seemed to have the technical knowledge by then to fix most any fixable problem. As always, he was missed. Frankly, the net seemed to drag a bit without his spark.

When he failed to join in for the eighth straight night, Joe and Claude exchanged emails. They were planning on driving down to the Huntsville, Alabama, hamfest the next weekend and were already going to meet in Nashville and ride on down the rest of the way together.

"If he doesn't show up in the meantime, let's plan on dropping by and checking on our buddy," Claude wrote. Neither admitted it but part of the reason was simple curiosity. As much as Tommy brought to the group, there was still a maddening sense of mystery about the guy.

QRZ.com confirmed the FCC database address (though there were no photos or information about K4NSD on the QRZ.com page, just a note that his callsign had been searched over 20,000 times). Google Maps showed his QTH to be in a neighborhood south of town, only a few blocks off Interstate 65.

It was mid-day on Friday when Claude and Joe met at a Cracker Barrel restaurant and enjoyed lunch together. The two of them had only had an "eyeball QSO" three or four times over the years they had been on the nightly roundtable. Then they took Joe's car and drove into Tommy's neighborhood, easily locating the house number on his mailbox. A customized passenger van sat in the driveway. The Tennessee license plate proclaimed it belonged to "K4NSD."

Only a couple of hams would have noticed the arc of ladder line feedline spiraling out of a tree in the backyard and toward the rear of the house.

"Bingo!" Claude proclaimed. "We have tracked down the so-and-so!"

It never occurred to either man that Tommy might not have wanted to be found, that their visit might be considered an intrusion. They considered him to be an old friend, and though they had never seen him face-to-face, it was exactly as if they had had coffee with him practically every day for the past ten years, chatting across the table in person.

An older lady cracked the door open cautiously.

"Yes? May I help you?"

"Good afternoon, ma'am," Joe said, removing his callsign ball cap. "We're a couple of buddies of Tommy's and just wanted to stop by and say 'hello.'"

She studied them warily.

"We're ham radio operators," Claude added. "Amateur radio buddies."

The door opened a bit wider and the woman smiled.

"
Oh! Excuse me. You never know these days. Tell me your names and callsigns and wait here and I'll check to see if…I'll be right back."

The two men looked at each other, but before they could wonder too long, the lady was back, opening the door for them, smiling as she warmly invited them inside. She led them through a neat living room and down a short hallway into what would typically be a den. The smell of cookies permeated the air. The lady did not wait for them to ask.

"You gentlemen go on in and I'll get you some fresh-baked cookies. And which would you like…milk, coffee or iced tea?"

They thanked her and placed their orders.

The big room was dark, the blinds closed against the afternoon sun, but they could hear the sound of a SSB conversation coming from a speaker somewhere. And, as their eyes adjusted from the brightness outside, the dial of a radio came into focus. But strangely, it appeared to be suspended from the ceiling on chains and cocked at an odd angle, not resting on a desk or in a rack.

Then they could see a man, lying beneath a sheet on a big hospital bed. He was amazingly pale, his arms white, resting at his sides. He turned his eyes toward the visitors but his head did not move. A microphone hovered on a boom near his pillow, inches from his dry lips.

"C'mon in, guys," the thin man said, his voice weak but still very, very familiar. He did not offer a hand. "I know. This is what happens when you wrap a motorcycle around a telephone pole. The telephone pole wins every single time."

"Gosh, Tommy, we had no idea," Claude said.

"I know. I know. I really never saw the need to burden you guys with my little problems. I was seventeen, invincible, going much too fast and some grandpa pulled out in front of me. Mom, I can't believe you let these two old crooks into our home! Call the law!"

The last was directed at the lady who was already setting down a plate with several cookies stacked up on it. And though there was no smile on Tommy's lips, there certainly was one in his expressive eyes.

"Sit down, fellows, if you have a few minutes to visit. Now that you've tracked me down, I'll show you my setup."

There was an elaborate bunch of spaghetti-like tubes within reach of his lips that he could use to blow into to control bandswitching, mode selection and other parameters on his radio.

"Mom has to come help me if I need to change bands quickly to chase DX or something," he told them. "I used to do some CW, using some kind of gizmo the rehab folks rigged up and some of the local hams helped me install. It was a touch-screen kind of thing…tied to glasses that let me focus…on a key so I could blow into the tube…and send a character."

Tommy paused then, out of breath, as if the words he spoke had drained him completely of all energy.

"Man, that's amazing!" Joe said, and he was sincere. "Quite a setup."
"Look, Tom, we didn't mean to barge in," Claude told him. "We just had no idea…"

"No idea at all," Joe added. "It's amazing what you have done…getting your ticket, getting on the air, being such a great member of the roundtable. Being such a good operator, even though…"

"I've gotten a lot more…out of that bunch…than I'll ever be able to contribute," Tommy said, and again those few words claimed all his breath.

The two visitors eased down, took a cookie each from the plate, and accepted the offered glasses of cold sweet tea from Tommy's mother.

"We just wanted to make sure everything was all right so we decided…"

"Aw, I appreciate it, guys. I've been…over in Memphis…the hospital over

there…kidneys…darn things are acting up…lately. Just got back…this morning."
Unlike the roundtable when Tommy was aboard, the other two hams carried most of the conversation. Tommy seemed to feel better after a while, seemed to forget how hard it was for him to breathe. For a bit, it might just as well have been the three of them, chatting away on lower sideband just below 3900 on 75 meters.

Finally, after three cookies and three big glasses of tea and a good hour of the in-person roundtable, Joe stood up and put his hand on top of Tommy's still one.

"Buddy, it has been great visiting with you, but we got to get on down to Huntsville. We have to get checked into our room in time for the DX dinner. Is there anything we can help you with before we get out of your way?"

Tommy asked them to tighten the speaker connection on the back of the rig. It had gotten flaky lately and cut out when his mom moved his bed to make it up. And he had them crank up the transmit audio gain and compression on the radio just a notch.

"My voice gets a tad weak sometimes lately," he explained, but asked them to let him know next time he was on the air if he was spattering or distorting with the new settings. He worried about such things. Always had.

"We'll be back home Sunday and maybe you'll feel like…get a chance to get on the roundtable with us," Joe said.

"I plan on it. And you can tell me what gear you saw at the hamfest. What they had good in the boneyard." They started for the door. "Oh, and guys. Thank you. Thank you for letting a new ham break into the group that night. And for being so nice and helpful…to a newcomer…who thought Ohm's Law was a cop show on TV."

"Hate to tell you, old man, but we do that for everybody, not just K4NSD!"

Claude said with a laugh. "We'll put a band scope on that audio Sunday and see how it works. Now, me and Joe have to get on down the way and see what prizes we are going to win and have to lug back home."
Tommy blinked hard and there was the slightest twitch of his cheeks that could have been the beginnings of a smile.

"Seventy-threes, guys. You'll never know…how much I appreciate you."

"Seventy-threes, Tommy," Joe shot back.

Both men were uncharacteristically quiet on the ride down I-65 that afternoon.

Both men hurried home on Sunday and had their rigs on and tuned up early for the roundtable, waiting to hear their friend when he checked in. There were a good dozen stations aboard that evening, and the subject matter ranged far and wide, from the things they saw and heard at the hamfest, to the later-than-usual sporadic-E activity on six meters, to the beginning of college football practice at several stations' favorite schools, all of whom were certainly going to win the national championship that year.

Later on, somebody asked Joe and Claude about their stopping in Nashville, about meeting Tommy. The two let everyone in the group know his situation. They did not figure he would mind. Not so long as they did it the right way.

Then they were back on propagation, the new QRP radio kit Joe bought that day, the boat anchor amplifier Claude purchased and made Joe help him haul all the way out to the car-in Huntsville and then again in Nashville.

"That's all right," Claude added. "I toted that QRP kit for him, too. That thing must've weighed two or three ounces! I'll be sore for a week."

But though most of the group lingered later than usual for a night before a work day, there was no K4NSD that evening.

Nor did he show up on Monday or Tuesday night either.

Wednesday evening, about an hour after the first of the crew showed up, a W4 broke in, a station nobody recognized, but with a good, smooth signal. Joe quickly acknowledged him and told him to come on in "and put your feet up and stay a while. We can use a signal like yours to scare the riff raff away."

"Thanks for letting me in, guys. My name's Cliff and I'm in Franklin, Tennessee, just south of Nashville. I just wanted to…well…I'm afraid I have bad news. Tommy Fowler, K4NSD, passed away Monday morning."

For several seconds the 75-meter band went about as quiet as anyone had ever heard it.

Claude was the first to speak up.

"Gosh, Cliff, that is some tough news," he said, his voice breaking slightly. "We really appreciate you coming onboard tonight to tell us, though."

"There's one other thing I wanted to share," the W4 said. "I know Tommy would want me to tell you this. Especially you guys. I think you, of all people, will understand it." Cliff's voice trembled slightly as he spoke. If it was possible to hear someone swallow hard over the air and from hundreds of miles away, then everybody on the roundtable that night heard Cliff swallow hard. Then, back in control, he went on. "This is something Tommy told a bunch of us one day when we were over at his place helping put up an antenna or something. He asked us to sit down for a minute. That he wanted to say something. He told us, 'Boys, from the day I first transmitted a signal on the air, from the night I broke into that roundtable on 75 meters, I ceased to be paralyzed anymore. The day those guys welcomed me into their group, I was no longer tied to this bed and that feeding tube and all these catheters. I traveled the world starting that night and along the way, I met the most amazing people. That bunch…you guys who help me stay on the air…the friends I have made all over the planet…all of that gave me my legs and hands back and made it possible for me to live with this thing.'"

This time it sounded as if somebody had let the air out of the band. Even the QRN, the splatter, and the squalling heterodynes chose to remain hushed for a few moments.

They talked about Tommy for a while, and would do so off and on for weeks. Nobody would ever replace their friend, they decided. Then, with Cliff sticking around and joining in, the topics that night drifted back to the usual: who they had seen at the hamfest, what the latest piece of gear reviewed in QST was, whether sending iambic CW was worth the learning.

Then, during a short lull just before ten o'clock, a young, high-pitched voice suddenly chimed in, interrupting the flow of the group, and tentatively saying, "Uh…breaker, breaker."

"Sounds like we have someone who has dared to break into this bunch of wool-gatherers," Joe responded. "Well, welcome, breaker. Come on in and tell us your call sign, your name and where you are."

"Uh…this is…uh…K M 5 C Q P." The youngster said the number and letters slowly, as if reading them off a slip of paper. "My…name…handle…uh…personal…is Danny Smith and I'm in Little Rock, Arkansas."

"Well, Danny, welcome to the roundtable. It's our pleasure to have you with us tonight. We are delighted to have Little Rock represented. Can we do anything in particular for you or do you just want to come on in and raise the average IQ of this bunch by twenty or thirty points?"

Yes sir. See, I just got my antenna up in the attic…" The signal faded deeply and then came back. The audio carried a bit of distortion. The youngster's voice trembled slightly. "…signal report, if you don't mind, sir. I just got my license last week and…well…you are my first contact on the ham."

There was a short pause before Joe and then each of the stations came back in turn. They would not only give Danny his signal report but enthusiastically welcome him to amateur radio, 75 meters, and the nightly roundtable.

In that short pause, it was easy to sense the big grins on the faces of each and every op who was listening in.







(Inspired by Ric Sims K4SCI and Mike Ferguson KE4UMD, both SK.)

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
The Roundtable  
by N5LXI on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Well done!
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by K4KRW on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Don, its all your fault. I'm running behind in my morning routine. I just couldn't stop reading. Thanks for a great story.

73,
Richard - K4KRW
 
The Roundtable  
by K1CJS on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you for the great story. You don't hear much of what ham radio can do for people--thanks for reminding us.
 
The Roundtable  
by W7PRG on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
I have tears flowing and deeply appreciate the opportunity to be emotional!

Thanks for sharing!
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by KG6WLS on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks, Don. That was a good read.
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by N4KZ on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Now extracting the lump in my throat. Thanks, Don. Well done. Haven't heard you on in a while.

73, Dave, N4KZ
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by N2RRA on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
I remember the tail end of those days. Long gone now!

Thanks for the story and has to be the longest I ever bothered reading completely.

73!
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by N4KZ on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Oops, I'd be remiss if I didn't relay this information. Along the lines of Don's story is W4HJQ (SK), a paralyzed ham who achieved great things on VHF while operating from his bed. I worked Tom, W4HJQ, on 10 meter groundwave several times when I was a new ham in the late 1960s. He was warm and friendly and I had no earthy idea that he was operating from bed because of serious injuries he'd suffered years before.

You can read about W4HJQ's impressive VHF achievements by going to the website of Shelby, W8WN. Click this link:

www.qsl.net/w8wn/w4hjq/w4hjq3.html

73, Dave, N4KZ
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by W5ER on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for sharing Don

73 Ed W5ER
 
The Roundtable  
by KC2VDM on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
My eye's are watering. An amazing story! you never know how much a simple hello can mean to someone! Thanks for sharing!

Alex-
KC2VDM
 
The Roundtable  
by K9YNF on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Solid GOLD, Don!
 
The Roundtable  
by ZF2RN on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
WOW. What ham radio is really all about.
I hope more read it and understand.
Thank you
 
The Roundtable  
by N2OBM on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Damnit it Don...you blew my cover. 'Ol Sarge isn't supposed to cry...Murphy would have three of my Soldiers come by just after reading your story.
OH, well.
Good story...
de YI9OBM
 
The Roundtable  
by KD8FTH on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
This story of comradery is a great one. The events described in this story are part of the draw to me of ham radio. A bunch of guys and gals with nothing better to do than rag chew with each other across the country or down the block. I experienced that in CB as a teenager and early 20's and enjoy the chance to be part of it now in Amateur radio. Excellent story. The best I've read here in over 5 years of reading.
 
The Roundtable -- frequency and time  
by K2CMH on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Do you guys still hold the roundtable? If so, what time and frequency?
 
The Roundtable  
by K7NNG on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Wonderful story. too bad he went SK.
The Roundtable group is similar to a group I was on many many years ago down around 3.860
I wish more groups were on like you guys.
 
The Roundtable  
by NW0LF on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for sharing. This brought tears to my eyes, also. It is also testimony to how even the little things we do can have a LARGE impact on others without us even realizing it.

Tom (Wolfie), K9WLF
 
The Roundtable  
by KB2DHG on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
DID YOU SAY SHORT STORY? Very nice though Thanx
 
The Roundtable  
by W2LJ on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Don - that was wonderful. Thanks!
 
The Roundtable  
by KB4QAA on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Darn computer screen is having focus problems....Thanks Don
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by WB4TJH on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
How often we seem to forget that the true enjoyment of amateur radio is fraternity. Thanks for a great story.
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by W0FM on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Another Five Star offering today, Don. Thank you.

73,

Terry, WØFM
 
The Roundtable  
by N1HOS on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
WOW
 
The Roundtable  
by K3LUE on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Great story. So many like this over the years and the only way it could happen was in a round table. So much today is based on a call, a signal report, and a quick 73. 75 meter round tables were for making friends. Again, great story.
Ron
 
The Roundtable  
by K6YE on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Don,

What a great story. It made me think about my father (K5LDH, SK in 2006). Some of the locals would transport him to the Belton, Texas Hamfests (thanks again, guys). He came into ham radio after his third stroke and lasted seven years before pancreatic cancer ended his fun.

Semper Fi,

Tommy - K6YE
DX IS and CW RULES
 
The Roundtable  
by VK5SW on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Excellent story Don. Thank you very much. Yes, Ham Radio can make a big difference to some peoples' lives.

Rob, www.vk5sw.com
 
The Roundtable  
by K9CTB on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Very cool story. Thanks!! Got to go now, something in my eyes (again)!

73,
K9CTB
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by KG4YMC on July 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
DON, thanks for the story, I am glad I"m not the onely one with tears in my eyes. I know this is differnt subject, but I used to help with horseback riding for the handicaped prgram once in tallhassee, they used it for therapy, kids that coun't walk had mobility and sometimes smiled and said a word for first time , anyway .ironicly was watching moive " Peral harbor" thought of scene were president stands up and says " don't tell me it cannot be done " THANKS AGAIN FOR A GREAT STORY , i GUESS INSPIRED BY REAL PEOPLE i"LL THINK DIFFERNLY ABOUT WHO i MIGHT BE TALKING TO , not gonna ask them personal stuff, just that you never know .... kg4ymc
 
The Roundtable  
by W2NCS on July 27, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Great story about a hobby that brings happiness to so many people. God Bless everyone that brought light to Tommy's life, and those he brought light to. May he rest in peace.
 
The Roundtable  
by KB9CFH on July 27, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Western Cincinnati Area around the mid 1960's. Little town called Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Guy's name was Larry Wyatt. Yes, he was a CB'er but in the same situation. If you were in the area you might remember KNJ-4492 ( KILLERWATT KID ) The thing that was odd was if he wasn't on the air someone at his house would come on and say he was " in the can " If you never stopped by the house or actually knew about the family you didn't get the signifance of being " in the can " Larry had POLIO and would operate from his hospital bed in the front room of the house. There was an IRON LUNG that he used to help him breath. He also had some neet prisum glasses that let him watch TV while he was flat in bed. He was active on the radio and myself and many other locals had long conversations into the wee hours of the mornings. Gives a new meening to being " in the can "
 
The Roundtable  
by K3SSB on July 27, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Don: you sure write a mean story. I savored every word... and like so many others... wiped a tear from my eyes.

Well done... 73 & 76

Tom G, Sr.
K3SSB
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by N1JR on July 27, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
After I, too, wiped my teary eyes, I began to think about this story and about another story. I recalled how as a young man (age 12) I lived in a small town and was burdened by a sense of loneliness. From a library book, I built a crystal radio set. I actually heard the local commercial radio station on it! Spurred on, I wanted to build a bigger crystal radio set. After searching out someone who could help me, I was put in touch with a man my parents knew who agreed to teach me "radio". When we first met, I was surprised to find out that he was a "Ham" and, instead of teaching me to build a super crystal radio, was going to teach me to be a Ham.

I studied with him and eventually got my Novice ticket. (I still have the crystals I used in my DX-20.) Having my license opened up my world. Being able to reach out through my radio and talk with others lessened my loneliness. I was freed from the confinement of the small town and made new friends: both my own age and older. It made all the difference.

I can never repay the kindness shown me by my "Elmer" who changed my life forever. We never really know how important others are for us in our lives and how even small events turn out to be unexpected gifts. I feel it a great honor now to have an opportunity to pass along to another some part of what I've received from others.

My hat is off to those members of the "Roundtable" who clearly understood this and to those many unnamed others who daily go about the work of making a difference.





 
The Roundtable  
by HA7WX on July 27, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Great article Don! I too am touched (teary eyes). For more than 10 years now i do almost come here on eham on a daily basis, but frankly i have always been too lazy to write a line anywhere here.
Here in Budapest a HAM buddy who is blind for more than 12 years (diabetes) and his main happiness other than his family is ham radio ; without the hobby and the company of good friends on 2 meters, his days would sure be boring (his wife passed away a few years ago). Oh yes, and exactly as in the story, he never advertises his blindness on the air. I happened to know about it after a while only.
Not only ham radio has a wonderful technical side, but also surely a unique human side and a daily "hello, how are you today my friend?" sure can make much more enjoyable our not so lucky friends life.
Maybe i am mistaken, but i admire you guys in north america for your care for each other, i feel like you do it better than here we do in europe...
73s to you Don, and everyone reading.
God bless America. Chris.
 
The Roundtable  
by N3LKA on July 27, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Great story.
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by VE3FMC on July 27, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Don what a great story!

It reminded me of the time I came across the Geratol Net back in 1994. I was only licensed to operate on 75 meters back then.

I had recently passed my 5 WPM code test and got on 75 with a full wave loop, that was low to the ground.

I came across the Geratol Net one night on 3.768. Listened in for a few nights then finally jumped in with my call.

I was welcomed with open arms and was told what the purpose of the net was. Within 15 minutes I had worked 10-15 Extra Class ops in different states and was well on my way to my ARRL 75 Meter Phone Endorsement. I managed to work all 50 on that low loop.

Pre Net was the rag chewing time and some nights there would be 20-25 guys and gals on the Pre Net. It was a blast.

In 1996 I went to Dayton for the first time. I visited Dave, KK8V at his home after he met myself and a friend at the campground we were staying at.

We also went out to dinner with a some of the G Net gang. Great time was had by all.

Memories like that last forever. Over the years I have made many good friends over the air waves.

Again, a great story and well written, I truly enjoyed reading it.

73 to all de Rick VE3FMC
 
The Roundtable  
by WX0V on July 28, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Don's article once again gives the rest of us who contribute articles here to eHam a high-quality benchmark to shoot for.

Otherwise, just copy and paste the line up of superlatives in the comments section here;

73!

Scott Woelm - WX0V
Fridley, MN
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by AJ3O on July 28, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you.

That is about all I can come up with for now.

Great read!
 
The Roundtable  
by W5GJG on July 28, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
I had a similar experience many moons ago. This guy had dove into a river and broke his neck. He had a great attitude and was fun to talk to,as I was a young new ham about 1960. He was on our round table on 29.6 AM great story. 73 Clarence.
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by KE7FD on July 29, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Don, thank you (again) for capturing the essence of what we all need to remember, and do.

Glen - KE7FD
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by N4KC on July 29, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks to all for the comments. The most interesting response to this story has been the number of people who have emailed me and asked the frequency where "The Roundtable" meets and wondered if it would be okay for them to check in.

Actually, this particular roundtable is an amalgam of quite a few that I have either been a part of or have eavesdropped on. They are out there. Yes, you will hear some that are not quite so...well...listener-friendly, or who are not as welcoming, but there are plenty that are.

And if you don't find one, start your own. I'd love to stop by and vist with you.

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com



 
RE: The Roundtable  
by KL7IPV on July 29, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you for that. I truly miss the old AM roundtable days. In 1961 on an old SuperPro, I remember listening to a roundtable discussing the new topless bathing suits that someone had seen on Coney Island. As the night wore on to early morning, others joined in only to discuss and disbelieve the story about the bathing suit. After all these years, that still has to be one of the best roundtables I ever heard. This one is really the best though since it shows what ham radio is really all about. Thanks again.
Frank
 
The Roundtable  
by WB4LFC on July 30, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Great story Don.
 
The Roundtable  
by N6HHK on July 31, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Well Don this was very well written and believe me I hope the story is spread through the Ham community. I myself have been licensed since 1963 and have seen a few similar stories over the years ,this one really touched the heart. Thank you for sharing.

73
Tom N6HHK
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by K3RMX on July 31, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Don,

WOW is right. I am in my office on a Sunday afternoon trying to get a little more caught up on my work, when I decided to check out eham before starting.

After reading your story, and wiping the tears from my eyes, I don't think I'm going to get anything work-related done today.

And THANKS for that. I was focusing on things that are really not important in the great scheme of things. Rather than try to work, I'll probably go home and try to get back on the air and have a real QSO rather than just name, location and signal report. After all, ham radio is about communication, not just contact.

Steve, k3rmx
 
The Roundtable  
by WZ3O on July 31, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Now look, dammit I'm to old to cry...or so I thought. I usually read the articles in a cursory manner, but I couldn't "put down the book"....
If only more people in or out of the hobby had that type of compassion & camaraderie...

OK, so I think I need to clear my throat again, I must be getting a cold....

73 all
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by PD2R on August 2, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
What a wonderful story, thank you for sharing.

And by the way, I wasn't crying, I accidentally poked myself in the eye...
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by TKENDALL on August 3, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Excellent article Don, along with all your other ones. Always informative and very enjoyable. It really proves how radio can be a lifeline to someone who can't physically get out.
 
The Roundtable  
by W8JYZ on August 4, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Don Keith’s “The Roundtable” was a well written story about an individual who overcame his disability and learned how to become a respected ham.

There are many such stories about people who challenged themselves because they wanted something bad enough to push themselves to the limit to learn and enjoy a hobby we all know and love. These stories and Roundtables of the present and the past make up our Ham Radio History.

My “QSL Cards from the Past” website www.oldqslcards.com has two scanned sections dealing with many disabled hams and the VA Hospitals around the country who supported these handicapped hams by providing equipment and operating stations so they could continue to enjoy their hobby.

W8SU Bob Ballantine has written tributes to handicapped Hams like Walt Colpus W8BRS and the “Chairwarmers Club that Walt helped to establish in the early 1930s. The Chairwarmers Club members were Handicapped Hams confined to a wheelchair but overcame their obstacles and became well respected CW operators of their day. Take time to see their Old QSL Cards and read their stories.

Thank you again Tom Keith N4KC for your wonderful story. Save those Old QSL Cards and our Ham Radio History.

Bob Green W8JYZ
 
The Roundtable  
by AE5JU on August 5, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks, Don, for another great story! ~ Paul - AE5JU
 
The Roundtable  
by XE3LW on August 5, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Nice story, thanks for sharing it.
 
The Roundtable  
by AE5JU on August 6, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Don, I participate in a ham radio subforum, which is in an Outdoors subforum of a gun forum I frequent. We've been egging on guys to get their licenses, encouraging them to study for more than just the Tech, and many have.

This was posted by one of the new hams recently:

"I fiddled with my tuner, and found a QSO in progress on 3.890...I called out and Immediately a gent by the name of Larry came back. I gave my call, QTH, and name...and mentioned this was my first QSO-then all trains halted!

"From there Larry, Duke and Nathan chatted along for a bit, asking questions and offering advice (just like you'd hope someone would treat a Green Ham)! They asked about my antenna, and I mentioned I was running about 75' of random wire- no counterpoise? What counterpoise? So I ran out, strung 75' feet of #14 on the ground and called back into the guys-Signal went from S4 to S7....ran another 50' or so and got to S9! Was also directed to up the mic gain and hold it closer to my trap.

"So what if it was only about 225+ miles, I finally got it done; with NVIS to boot––––it wound up being a pretty great day."
-----

Not my very first QSO, but the one that stands out was my 6th. My first few contacts were scheduled with hams I knew. Then I heard a contester calling for Louisiana. I figured I'd fill out his log and answered. Somehow I got through the pileup, and he asked, "Is this your first QSO?" (How could he tell?) I replied, "Heck, no, I'll have you know this is my 6th... " Well, Bill K4EOA, though he could have given me a quick 73, and on with his contesting instead took time out, explained how contests worked, the jargon, what the various terms meant, all that. In the time he took with me he could have worked 15 or 20 others. And he welcomed me to ham radio, as did others waiting patiently in the pileup. When I grow up to be a real ham I want to be just like Bill K4EOA.
-----
Along those lines, last October we hosted about 15 Boy Scouts (all well behaved kids, asked good questions, polite to a fault) in our club station W5BMC for JOTA, Jamboree on the Air. We talked about what ham radio is and isn't, propagation, other things, and then listened a bit with an Icom 718, Samlex 1223, and LDG IT-100 with a 80 m OCFD outside. There was a guy, VE3---, talking to other Scouts and when I heard him closing out the QSO I said, "OK, hold my Dr. Pepper and watch this..."

"VE3---, VE3--- this is W5BMC, W5BMC..." paused, and Tony VE3--- came right back. I had moments before pointed at the map on the wall and asked, "Do you see where VE3 is?" The boys said, "That's up in Canada!" W5BMC is our club call, we are on the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

VE3--- came right back, and soon the boys were lined up, Tony talking to each of them in turn for a few minutes, then they'd pass the mic to the next boy. Tony asked "How do you like being a Scout... what do you guys do... so, is Ham Radio something you think you might be interested in doing?"

One boy turned it around, "Were you a Scout as a boy?" There was a bit of a pause before Tony answered. And the answer, well, you could have heard a pin drop.

"No, I was in a bad accident and was laid up a long time. And even when I got out of the hospital I couldn't participate in most of the Scouting activities so I kind of missed out on that. I'm in a wheelchair."

Well, after Tony and the boys were finished I used that as a teaching moment. ANYBODY can participate in ham radio. There are very young kids that pass the test, there is no age limit. Or people with bad disabilities such as Tony, and the test teams will make accommodations, even giving a test at a person's home if he is unable to attend a regular test session.

Don, your story struck home. I hope all new hams have that good an experience, and most do.

Thanks!

73,
Paul - AE5JU
 
RE: The Roundtable  
by KI4SBU on August 26, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Don Keith,

Great story. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

73,
Ed Hill
KI4SBU
 
The Roundtable  
by GW0NSR on September 1, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
This story is indicative of the real sprit of amateur radio. It may or may not be based upon fact and that doesnt matter one small piece. It is, however, very much in parallel to the actual life of Peter, G3MUM, now sadly SK. He spent the majority of his life in a hospital bed, desperately paralysed, only able to operate his radio by a movement of his toes. His call, MUM came about because it was his mother who encouraged him to try for his licence. A very brave and determined team they made, aswell.
73 de
Tony, GW0NSR.
 
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