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It's In the Mail

Eric P. Nichols (KL7AJ) on June 6, 2014
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It’s in the Mail


Eric P. Nichols, KL7AJ


Eeny-meeny-miney-moe….  Zero beat my radio….  If I am not loud and clear… Listen with your other ear.  WL7AI fer ID.”

“Sounds okay now, OM.  Like you say, probably just a little R.F. in the mikeyfone.  KL7AJ, just for the halibut.”

“Roger.  Hey, while I’ve gotcha there, can you listen up and down a few and see if I’ve got any ker-splatter?  I’m driving this thing pretty hard, and my sillyscope is dead.”

“Sure.  Give me a long count.”

“One two, skip in my loo, three four, shut the door, five six, pick up chicks, seven eight, lay them straight, nine ten…er….umm…I forgot the rest….WL7AI out.”

“Clean as a hound’s tooth, El Joe.  Nuthin’ to worry about.”

“Cool.  Well since I’m aimed right down your gizzard, I imagine I won’t be bothering anyone else either.  So are you ready for SS?”

“Dang, is it November already??!!”

“Yeah, it started just after October got finished.  Did the same last year too, I believe.”

“Hmm.  Well the rotatorator still rotatorates, and nothing seems to be spewing out too much smoke, so I guess I’m pretty much set.”

“Care to collaborate this year?  Might have a better chance of showing up in the ratings.  Haven’t operated multi in ages, anyway.”

“Sure!  Sounds like a slick idea.  Your shack or mine?”

“Why not scoot your boots over here?  The XYL is going to some quilting bee needle twiddling conference of some sort that weekend. We can bring over the dancing girls.  Maggie sez it’s okay as long as they don’t smoke.”

Ahh.  Are the dancing girls licensed?  For ham radio, I mean.”

“No, but they can keep the logs for us.  I think one of them can even read.”

“Great. Sounds like a plan then.  Need anything from ye olde junque box here?”

“We’ll shake things down early afternoon, and we’ll find out.  I think I’m pretty well set.  You can use the S-line rigs…they’ve been lonely lately.  And the quad.  I think I’ll hang out on the low bands.”

“Extra cool!  Well, El Joe, I’m gonna grab the last few minutes of ten meters before it takes a dive.  See ya Friday I guess!”

Alrighty then.  Yack atcha soon. 73, OM.  I’ll start clearing off a bench or two right away.  Have a good one.  KL7AJ, from WL7AI listening out.”

“73, El Joe.  WL7AI, KL7AJ clear.”



El Joe opened the cooler parked below the breaker box.  “Name your vice.”

I peered into the cooler and selected a can of Jolt that was interspersed with a variety of 807s.  “I’d better at least start off with some caffeine.  We’ll see how it goes as the night wears on.”

El Joe grabbed an 807.  Ahh.  Good thinking, E.  I’ll drink and you operate.”  He nodded toward the operating position.  “I cleared off thirty years of literature and crud so you could find a place to park your elbows.  Found one of the XYLs buried under there too…can’t remember which number.”

“Always the thoughtful one, El Joe.  No wonder so many women wanted to marry you.”

“Yeah.  The branding iron was getting pretty well worn out by the time Maggie came around.   I think I’ll keep this one though.  Had Maggie almost twelve years, imagine that!”

“Imagine that,” I repeated, rolling my eyes.  I made my way over to the throne set before the S-line rigs.

“Still remember how to use those?” El Joe queried.

“Oh sure.  Just like riding a tricycle.”

“You may need to prop open the lid a bit on that 32S after we get cranking.  They drift a tad less that way, as you may recollect.”

“I recollect,” I said, perhaps a bit wistfully.

“How are you with these newfangled computer things?  You can use them just like a typewriter. I got a couple of them that you can use to type logs without using any paper at all.  Imagine that! I got paper logs you can scribble on with a pencil too if you need them.”

“Probably wouldn’t hurt to have both…just in case the dancing ladies don’t show up,” I suggested.

“Good enough.  Well, we’ve got about three hours till contest….feel free to just do some ragchewing or DXing or whatever kind of foreplay before then.  Get the S-line all stable and such before we go on.  By the way, the spare 32s can go on the air in a jiff; just flip that coax switch.  All the control lines and such are already wired up.  Just in case we smoke the main one, of course. Don’t have a spare afterburner though. Hope you’re okay with that lollipop mike.  If you want something else, I have some newfangled mics you can use.”

“Lollipops are fine,” I said.  ”Might be bad luck to use an S-line with anything else, anyway.”

“Hah!  Yeah, you’re probably right!” El Joe agreed.

I settled into the cockpit, exercised all the bandswitches and changeover relays, spun the rotator, and got the lay of the land.  AI’s QTH was a little bit quieter than mine…or he just had better antennas.  It looked like 10 meters might cooperate for at least part of the ‘stakes…but if not, we still had 5 more bands to choose from.  I peered over at El Joe’s station and saw he was tuned up on 160; I presumed he was going to work from the bottom up.  Between us both, we could put a squeeze play on all that great contest fodder.

After an hour or so of pre-contest on-the-air well-wishing, I felt the top of the 32S cabinet.  I’d forgotten just how hot those rigs ran!  I propped open the hood, as El Joe had suggested, and peered inside, just to remind myself of what the innards looked like.  And then I noticed the half-inch stack of cards wedged between the right edge of the chassis and the cabinet wall.  At first I thought it might have been some kind of shim or something.  I pried the stack of cards out from their resting place. 

They were QSL cards…about 75 of them.  All bearing the Call K7PGK…all signed and filled out….bearing the date of November 15, 1964.  And each with a 4 cent stamp affixed.

“Hey, El Joe.  Do you know a K7PGK?”

“Sure….you’re talking to ‘im.  That was my call before I came to Alaska.”

I handed the stack of cards to him.  “Um…I think you’d better look at this.”

El Joe took the stack of cards, raising a bushy eyebrow.  “Where the f-f-flapdoodle did you find these?!”

“They were inside the 32S.  Stuck beside the chassis.”

El Joe pondered the ceiling for a moment.  “Ho-lee Frijole!  I remember now!  I’d brought the 32 S over to MG’s shack for the sixty-four sweepstakes.  Stuck the cards in there cuz I didn’t have a briefcase.  Brought er’ back home and forgot about them.  Man, MG’s been a Silent Key for 40 years now!”

“I imagine most of the ops there are Silent Keys by now too!”

“Well, better late than never.  Guess I’d better mail these.”

“I don’t think they’d get very far with four cents, El Joe!  By the way, why didn’t you use the Buro back then?”

“Well…me ‘n the League had a bit of a falling out about then.  I did it just for spite.”

Ahh.  Well that worked well, didn’t it?” I taunted.

Hee!  Yeah.  Well, tell ya what.  I always hate unfinished business.  I’ve got a big old roll of them newfangled “forever” stamps in that cubbard on yer left.  Never sure why they’re called forever stamps since I have to keep buyin’ ‘em.  But why don’t ya re-stamp them all for me and we’ll send em’ out.  See what happens.  It’s only been fifty years.”

“Sure, why not,” I agreed.  “Maybe someone’s been waiting for his card.  Might be fun to find out.”

One by one, I pasted the new stamps on the ancient cards, seeing if there were any calls I recognized.  After about forty five cards, I spotted an oddly familiar callsign, WN6TEE.  My own callsign before I myself had headed to the Last Frontier.

“Well, I think I can save you ONE forever stamp,” I sputtered.  “Like you said….better late than never.”

Member Comments:
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It's In the Mail  
by K6SI on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
??Uhh?? What the heck is this??
It's In the Mail  
by WA0TML on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Got a chuckle with this - sounds about right!
It's In the Mail  
by KB2DHG on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
WHAT THE?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
It's In the Mail  
by KB2HSH on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Clearly it's satire....but....uh....
It's In the Mail  
by N3QE on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
On that last bureau comment... Did ARRL bureau ever accept purely domestic cards? Date and conversation and WN6 imply sweepstakes. I think bureau does handle KH6 and KL7 and KP4 and VE (but 75 territories and VE's would be a lot even for a modern sweepstakes).

I recently went over a pile of my QSL cards from my youth, 35 years ago. Looking up callsigns in, a handful were still active, a few more were still licensed but did not seem to be active.
It's In the Mail  
by K0CBA on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I think he may have left his head out in the Alaskan cold too long.
It's In the Mail  
by KI4YZN on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
What the heck is all this JIB-JAB???????????
It's In the Mail  
by W0CBF on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
It must have lost something in the translation.
It's In the Mail  
by AB1DQ on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Oh what a refreshing treat this was - thank for posting!

73 de AB1DQ/James
Bedford MA
RE: It's In the Mail  
by N4UM on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Good for chuckles! Hastafa Scratchi lives!

I gave up QSLing many years ago when my cat (who had a serious kidney condition) decided to use the shoebox holding my collection of DX cards for a litter pan - apparently on numerous occasions! I thought it might be fun to dry them out and send them, stains and all, to Newington for checking but realized that my beef with the ARRL wasn't that serious!
RE: It's In the Mail  
by N6AJR on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
nice read.. a smile for today.

It's In the Mail  
by WB4DAD on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Very nice, Eric. Thanks.
It's In the Mail  
by WA8HHH on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Been there, done that. Still miss the 4 cent postage!
RE: It's In the Mail  
by KL7AJ on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Hey James:
Thsnks for the comment! Nice Echophone receiver in your photo!

P.S. Only someone who knows what an Echophone is would really get my humor. :) Must be old age or sumpin. :)
RE: It's In the Mail  
by K9MHZ on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
That was pretty good, Eric!

Meanwhile, we'll all chip in for a new keyboard for KB2DHG. Looks like he has a stuck key.
It's In the Mail  
by JOHNZ on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I highly recommend a visit to the Southern Appalachian Radio Museum, located in Asheville, North Carolina.

If you enjoy historical radios and old QSL cards, this is the place to visit. I donated a few hundred old QSL cards from the 1930s and 1920s, which I inherited from SK relatives. Their collection is impressive, well worth the trip.

Might want to take some ear plugs with you, if you visit. The place is also a popular gathering spot for local hams, and they get quite loud and obnoxious.
It's In the Mail  
by WO4K on June 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks, Eric, for the laughs. And here I thought an Echophone was a harmonics problem.
It's In the Mail  
by K1CJS on June 7, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Cute little story! Nice reminder of sometimes how we can 'overlook' things we want to do too. Thanks for the smile. 73!
It's In the Mail  
by WA4HBK on June 7, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
My person best request for a QSL is Aug 1978, got that request 2 1/2 months ago. It was from my operations as KG4HC (1978-1983)
It's In the Mail  
by KB3WEY on June 8, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Anyone notice that the comments here are either of confusion or remembrance of the "Good Old Days"-Extra lite speaking.
It's In the Mail  
by AE5ZE on June 8, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
A little humor goes a long way, and makes us not take ourselves so seriously. Thanks for the chuckle!!!

Over and Out.
It's In the Mail  
by K0DCH on June 8, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
A good laugh, and not far from reality. Thanks Eric.
It's In the Mail  
by K6SJH on June 8, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Great story Eric, love to see some humor on here.
RE: It's In the Mail  
by W1NK on June 8, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I think I detect a writing style in the same vein as ol' W6ISQ!

It's In the Mail  
by W3IHM on June 9, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Great story. Keep at it! You got a knack.

I liked the writing, too! It sure is hard to write dialog, unless you remember it.

God Bless
RE: It's In the Mail  
by AB1DQ on June 9, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Tnx for the shout out on my Echophone. I recapped and realigned that one a couple years back and is probably my all time favorite gen coverage receiver of that vintage.

Hogarth would be pleased to know someone still uses and appreciates the EC-1 in the 21st c.

Keep up the good writing work....def. appreciate it!

RE: It's In the Mail  
by JOHNZ on June 9, 2014 Mail this to a friend!

Ah, W6ISQ, yes, a legend from the Golden Age of amateur radio! Katahi Nose, KH6IJ, also comes to mind and had the distinct pleasure of meeting him in the 1980s, before his untimely death.

Guys like Don and Nose were giants in ham radio, truly gentlemen, very unlike the hyperactive loud mouth bullying contesters and DXers of today.

RE: It's In the Mail  
by W4HLN on June 9, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
NO LIDS..... NO KIDS...... NO SPACE CADETS ! If you don't know what this is then you ain't OLD YET!
RE: It's In the Mail  
by N2IK on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
The "No Lids No Kids NO space cadets" OM was loud in Massachusetts in 1964 when I was a teen novice. He succeeded in intimidating me.

73 de Walt N2IK
It's In the Mail  
by WA7SGS on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
This was a good funny read!
RE: It's In the Mail  
by N4KC on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Well, I've been checking the mailbox every day for my K7PGK card but no luck. Then I realized that would have been five addresses and one call sign change ago!

Oh, well. Hope the dead letter office has a special place on the wall for my card.

Good read, Eric, as always...


Don N4KC

(Author of the new book RIDING THE SHORTWAVES:

It's In the Mail  
by NM1J on June 11, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Eric, entertaining as always.
RE: It's In the Mail  
by KL7AJ on June 13, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Hey Don:

Great to share the book table with you at Dayton last year. I didn't see you around this year...but I was pretty busy over at the W5YI booth so mighta missed you if you were there!

RE: It's In the Mail  
by N4KC on June 13, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Eric, it was great meeting and talking with you last year at Dayton. I'm on deadline for my next book so was not able to fit Dayton in for this year. But the bratwurst smoke calls and I plan on being there next year.

Hope all is going well with you and yours, and that you enjoy that Alaskan summer...both days of it!


Don N4KC

RE: It's In the Mail  
by W8MW on June 15, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
How refreshing to see ham radio humor still alive and kicking. Well done!

73 Mike W8MW
Enjoying benevolent contacts with fellow amateurs since 1962
RE: It's In the Mail  
by W3WN on June 15, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Great story, Eric!

Mind if I use it in my club newsletter?
RE: It's In the Mail  
by KL7AJ on June 16, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Feel free to use this in your newsletter. Just be sure to state where you got it. And send all your dollars to me. HI.

RE: It's In the Mail  
by W3WN on June 18, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I always give full credit to the author with a link back to the website. Not to worry.

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