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The Field Day Fiasco...

Clinton Herbert (AB7RG) on June 11, 2001
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The Field Day Fiasco…

I remember being really excited for my first Field Day event. I had already gone to a few of the local Amateur Radio club meetings shortly after receiving my license, KF7OOL, and was all fired up for the event. Chuck, the club's president invited me to come and help out. They had about 200 members, and many of them were going to be at Field Day this year, just as always. I was ecstatic!

Finally the big day had arrived. It was Field Day! I was so sleepy that I could hardly get any rest the night before, but was ready to do the whole 24 hours just the same. I went and picked up Willy, one of the senior club members whose car was in the shop and needed a lift. No problem, I had room to spare, and he knew the way to the site, some 50 miles away. I drove out to the annual Field Day site with great enthusiasm, so much so that I got two speeding tickets on the way there. It would have been three, but I didn't want to be late, so I outran the last state trooper to get there. Not an easy feat in a small Toyota truck, but I managed... Willy kind of freaked out when I did that, and was unable to speak once we arrived at the site (thankfully he had a map to the site in his front shirt pocket or I would have never found the site!)

I got to the parking lot that the club had set up for Field Day, and quickly pulled behind a nice new yellow Corvette. My emergency brake never has worked right, but I figured that I could block up the tires of my truck well enough to where nothing would happen. Looking back upon it, I guess I should have no parked on the little hill, as my truck did start to roll forward as soon as I got out of it, but that Corvette managed to stop the sudden forward motion of my truck, really fast! I was glad, as Willy was still in it. I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to Willy…

I went over and asked some club members to help me get Willy out of my Toyota. They were a little concerned with his condition upon seeing him, pale, sweating, hands shaking and all. This was really too bad, as Willy was one of the clubs best CW operators. He was unable to compete and had to be taken home. I guess that Willy wasn't much for long drives…

Ted, Willy's younger brother, must have been in one too many Field Day events, as he pulled out of the operation after finding out that someone had carelessly ran into his Corvette. It was some Toyota truck I was told. I guess my truck is a popular make. I wonder who could have been such a careless driver to this day... Quite the coincidence in vehicle makes if you ask me. I was dismayed at such a lack of dedication on Ted's behalf however. After all, a car is a car is a car, and I was sure that Willy would recover nicely.

Anyway, after a little while I met Bob, one of the 80-meter CW & 40-meter SSB operators and club treasurer, who welcomed my offer to help, and asked me if I could get some rope to help him better secure one of the supports for his dipole for 80-meters, as the wind was kicking up a bit. I said no problem and proceeded to my truck. Imagine my good fortune, as on the way to my truck I found some rope! No need to walk all that distance back up to the parking area. The rope was tied to a nice piece of wood that was stuck in the ground at an awkward angle, but I managed to get it untied and gave it a good yank.

As I was walking back from my great rope find one of the operators on 15-meter CW had something horrible happen! His tent collapsed suddenly upon him and his operating station. He was quite shaken by the event, and it also ended the clubs 15-meter station operation. This was very unfortunate for the club. Later, someone said that one of the ropes tied to a tent stake got cut lose from the stake and a gust of wind came along and caused the tent to capsize. Odd, you would have thought that such a well-prepared Amateur Radio club such as this would have made sure that the tent was fastened securely…

Later on that evening the club had its annual Field Day barbeque. Great, I was very hungry at this point. I walked up and offered my assistance in getting the fire started. Bob said that I could get the campfire going. So I went and put the wood in the place they had set up for the campfire. The only problem was that the wood had gotten wet from a rainstorm the night before. I came up with a quick solution for this however, and went over to the generator and got a five-gallon gas can. Nothing starts a fire quite like good ol' gasoline! I just knew that the club members would be pleased with my effort in getting the fire started once they came over and saw a roaring campfire!

The wood was pretty wet, so I poured on about a gallon of gas or so. Then I figured, you know, this wood is awfully wet, the logs are pretty thick, and I really need to get this fire blazing for the barbeque. So I poured the rest of the can on the wood. I decided to wait a bit before lighting the fire, as I wanted the gasoline to soak in real good. I walked back to the generator and placed the empty gas can where I found it.

On my way back to the campfire I suddenly saw a huge ball of fire shoot way up into the air along with what sounded like an explosion! Oh what bad luck the club is having this year, I thought. I heard all sorts of yelling and screaming on my hurried trek to the campfire. As it turns out Bob had tossed a match onto the wet wood, after putting a little bit of lighter fluid on it to help get it started. He lost his eyebrows, his callsign cap, and his new ARRL Field Day shirt in the event. I guess Bob didn't know the dangers of putting too much lighter fluid on a campfire…

Joe, our clubs vice-president, asked me if I could help out with running Bob's 40-meter SSB station. I eagerly jumped at the chance. In fact, I was so eager that I tripped over a few large solar panels, breaking them up pretty badly. Nothing a little glue here and there couldn't fix I thought. However, this really angered Joe, and he told me that the club would be better off if I went out and did something called "Snipe Hunting". So he sent me out into the woods with a nice wooden tent stake from the now ruined 15-meter CW station to go and kill a Snipe. Now I've been Snipe hunting before, but have never to this day seen one, much less killed one. And the odd thing about going Snipe hunting is that when you get back to where you started from all of your hunting buddies are always gone. So I only went out for a couple of hours to assure I would be back and ready to operate the night shift. I never did find any Snipes that night either. Boy, they sure are elusive creatures…

Sometime during the middle of the night the generator quit running. All the stations shut down as the generator died. It had run out of gas, and Joe got all worked up once he found that the gas can was empty. I was amazed at how unprepared the club really was for this years Field Day… Joe, seeing that I had returned from Snipe hunting asked me to get some more gas for the generator. I couldn't make out what he was saying at first because I was so far away, but he was pointing to me, and it sounded like he was saying; "Steven that ool can't screw this up", or something to that effect. I was impressed that he remembered the last three of my call letters, not to mention his faith in my abilities. I think that by this time I really had made an impression on Joe…

Joe must have wanted Steve, the club's secretary to take a lesson from me, as he said for him to go and watch everything that I did, and to make sure that nothing got screwed up by some fool. I'm not sure why Joe was worried about some "fool" messing things up, as this club was supposed to be a top-notch group of guys, and I didn't think that any "fool" would try to interfere with us... Anyway, I grabbed the two nearest five-gallon cans and took them to my Toyota and proceeded out, along with Steve riding shotgun.

The gas station was a good ways away, but I managed to shave off a few minutes by making a quick detour down one of the older roads in the area. I guess that Steve wasn't as dedicated to Field Day as I had thought, because when we came to a sign that said; "bridge out", he protested my suggestion that we jump the bridge. I knew that I could do it; my trusty rusty Toyota had made this sort of thing before... Well we made the jump; it was only 30 feet or so across, and about 150 feet down. No problem! Steve must have been really tired; as he apparently passed out from what I figured was exhaustion about the time we went airborne. So I dropped him off at the gas station after filling the cans with gasoline and headed back to the clubs Field Day site. Just like I figured, Steve just wasn't that dedicated to Field Day…

Upon my arrival back at the Field Day site Joe seemed a bit irritated, as Steve wasn't with me. I explained to him that Steve just couldn't handle the stress of the event and fell asleep. I think that Joe was pretty upset with Steve, as he kept mumbling and kicking dirt around for a while. At least he was happy to see that I had brought the two five-gallon gas cans back.

Now we were full into the night shift. Joe, somewhat reluctantly told me that I could run the 40-meter station. I could hardly wait! I had no problem with solar panels this time, as they were all broken and piled up next to the trashcan. I guess that Joe figured they were now useless do to it being nighttime and all…

I hurried into the tent to make my very first Field Day contacts on 40-meter SSB. Once inside, I quickly fired up the radio, a nice one at that a Yaesu FT-1000D. I saw that the mike gain wasn't adjusted properly, so I turned it all the way up and punched the processor button. I started tuning the amplifier, and then realized that I could get more power out of it if I just kept increasing the drive power, and tweaking the load and plate controls. I did this for a while and it was a good thing, as every time that I would un-key, I heard operators complaining about some idiot who was constantly tuning up on the frequency. Odd, I never heard him... I guess I was lucky. So I continued to tune up the amplifier. Then yet another problem arose! The amplifier, which had worked very well up until this point, had a very sharp decrease in power, and smoke started coming out of it. I grabbed a cup of coffee to pour into the small fire in the amplifier, but missed, and it went down into the Yaesu FT-1000D. Then the Yaesu made a few arcing noises and quit. I guess they just don't make radios like they used to…

Well I couldn't get the fire under control, and had to bail out of the tent, and it went up in flames. It managed to catch the 10-meter tent on fire too. Good thing the band was dead and the club wasn't using the tent for the night shift. However, I knew that this was going to hurt the club's chances at another good score for this year's Field Day.

We nearly had lost the 6-meter station that Mike, the clubs VHF guru was running… It seems in my haste to help put the fire out I tripped over a guy wire, causing me to fall into a table, which broke my fall nicely I might add, but it did knock over a five gallon jug of ice water, right onto Mike. This was too bad, as I could have used it to help put out the fire. But at least it did wake Mike up, albeit rather suddenly from a sound sleep.

Joe, after being woke up suddenly when the tent he was sleeping in caught fire (the 10-meter setup), was once again, pretty upset to say the least. I tried to explain how the amplifier malfunctioned and that the Yaesu was just a junky piece of plastic, now melted anyway, but Joe didn't seem to care too much for what I had to say. He really needed some psychological treatment I figured, as he rushed at me, screaming, yelling, and swinging a vertical antenna he had yanked up out of the ground at me. I guess the several accidents at this year's Field Day and the stress of operating for so many years had really taken its toll on Joe…

It took the club a good while to get the fire out, and once it was out, the club had lost not only their 15-meter station, but now the 40-meter and 10-meter stations as well. This was most disturbing. It was just getting to be daylight too.

After the fire was put out, I decided to go over and offer my assistance to Mike, with the 6-meter station he was operating. Well as soon as Mike saw me coming he started yelling for me to go away and threw a folding chair at me. I guess that Mike wasn't much of a morning person…

Well even though quite a few of the club members seemed to have lost their zest for this year's Field Day I sure hadn't, and I went over to the 20-meter station, ran by Sam. Sam was a ham's ham, a real DX expert. I asked Sam if I could help him out, and he told me that I could do the logging for him. Great, as this was finally my chance to put some contacts down for the club. However, after only about five minutes or so, Sam told me rather bluntly to leave his operating position, as he was getting very annoyed at me and my yelling "Yeah, way to go Sam!" after each contact he made. Gee, I was only trying to cheer him on…

Undaunted, I went over to the breakfast table to catch a bite to eat. I figured that Sam would need my assistance again after I had eaten. Perhaps then he would have regained his enthusiasm for this year's Field Day. On my way back from breakfast I nearly tripped over some coax cable that was carelessly lying on the ground. With the condition that many of the club members were in at this point I figured that it would be best for me to move it, before someone had another accident. So I gave the coax a good yank. At precisely that same moment however, there must have been a huge gust of wind, because Mike's 6-meter radio suddenly flew right off of his operating table, smashing into the ground! So much for the club's VHF station operation... Boy was the club ever having bad luck this year. Well, at least I did avert any accidents by moving that coax…

I continued on to Sam's 20-meter operating position, he had Joe, who seemed a bit calmer now, logging for him. I didn't want to further upset Joe or bother Sam, so I tried to stay quiet. I noticed that their 30-foot tower that they had erected was swaying a bit in the wind, so I went and got my truck and tied a guy wire to the end of it and secured their tower to my bumper.

Sam and Joe were doing great at this point and both got ecstatic when a P5 came on frequency and responded to their call. Then I noticed that someone hadn't taped up a coax connector for the station they were operating. Wow, I would hate to have seen them lose a contact or have another malfunction, so I quickly un-did the connector on the coax cable, to clean it, then fastened it back up and taped it up.

It really was too bad that Sam couldn't ever get that P5 to come back again... I don't know what happened, and neither did they. Before Sam and the P5 could exchange signal reports their HF radio quit receiving suddenly for a minute. We never could figure out what caused it… It really wasn't a good way to end Field Day, and just made this year's event the club's worst ever. The club members claimed that a curse had befallen them this year, and I was beginning to agree at this point.

I felt bad for the club, and I did have to leave a little early, as I had some yard work that needed to get done, so I offered to drive anyone home who needed a lift, but no one took me up on it. Some of them must really be into physical fitness, as more than one of them said that they would rather walk home. I left about an hour early, while Sam and Joe were still trying to get that P5 back and make some more contacts before Field Day was officially over. So it was a long lonely drive home for me. However, an odd thing happened to me… I noticed when I got home that I had three 10-foot sections of tower tied behind my truck! Wow, this was very fortunate for me, as I needed a tower. Maybe one of the club members thoroughly appreciated my efforts helping out at Field Day this year, and decided to give me the tower sections as a surprise…

Oh well, as they say, there's always next year! And boy, I can hardly wait to help out with the club next year at Field Day! I'm already looking forward to it. I plan to be much more helpful too…

73 - I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did writing it. Clinton AB7RG

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The Field Day Fiasco...  
by W5ZIP on June 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
My side is hurting!!!
Tell you what....if I see a Toyota pickup headed my way ...I'm turning around and hauling butt outta there!
Great story
73 Gerald
The Field Day Fiasco...  
by K2UFT on June 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Hey Clinton - where are you operating this year? I'm torn between getting a film crew to film the action or making sure I'm at least two states away from you!

Great story 73 Dick
The Field Day Fiasco...  
by NT0P on June 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
This reminds me of my first Field Day, 1979. I was 17 years old and I'd just gotten my Novice ticket in the mail a week before and my first rig, a TenTec Century 21. Well, I didn't see quite as many examples of bad luck, but I did see N0SW come rushing out of the CW station when I tuned up on his frequency OUTSIDE of the Novice bands. There weren't any further incidents until the whole thing was over and everything was packed up, except for my stuff. I drove my car across the field to where the Novice station had been and discovered that there was a stump hidden in the tall grass. Fortunately, it didn't suffer any damage, as the engine mount on my '71 LeMans conviently gave way.

My father promised me he'd get me a Sherman tank for the 1980 Field Day!
The Field Day Fiasco...  
Anonymous post on June 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
We hold field day in the local state park.

I made the rounds and was having a chat with
one of my elmers.

Two other cw operators were working some
stations in the same tent.

My elmer had a very large bug thing about to
crawl up his leg ! I told him where it is and
he stomped on it (took a few to get it)

anyway I say 'you got him !'

and then the other two cw guys turn around
and give me the meanest look I ever did see.

My elmer says 'he ment the bug !'

I just turned around and left the tent.

The Field Day Fiasco...  
by VE7VJ on June 11, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Oh that was good!

You have a real gift there - writing I mean ;)
The Field Day Fiasco...  
by WA4PTZ on June 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
This would be a funny story were it not so horribly
typical . We seem to have several members just like
this poor schmuck. I used to enjoy Field Day.
Now, I guess I'm more like Willy.
I wonder if technical idiocy is grounds for
justifyable homicide ? HI HI
The Field Day Fiasco...  
Anonymous post on June 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
As Kipling said... Down to Ghenh, up to the throne, he travels best who travels alone. Thanks for the story.
The Field Day Fiasco...  
by N8VW on June 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Didn't I see this on the Simpson's Field Day show?
RE: The Field Day Fiasco...  
by KJ6H on June 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Mr. Magoo is a bit long winded but funny.
Thanks for the story.
Tod KJ6H
The Field Day Fiasco...  
by W4KSR on June 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
This happened to a radio club where I used to live a few years ago. I mostly follwed the events on the repeater, but I witnessed a little of it in person:
The club had operated for several years at a campground. Seems as though something would happen every year we were there. The little store got burglurized, some camper's e-brake came loose, and piled into the same store. The campground was owned by a ham, and his wife, but they divorced, so the club had to look for a new site. They found one in a spot of undeveloped land next to a local shopping mall. As luck would have it, it rained cats and dogs the night before, and the morning, soaking the spot, and making a big mud puddle out of it. So, they asked permission to move to another plot up the drive, which was higher ground. Started setting up there, and one of the hams came along towing her 35' camper trailer. Like I said, this spot is elevated, so she proceeds to run her van up the little hill. The sand is soft, and the rear wheels sink into the soft sand. There was no moving it. Now, this 35' trailer is blocking 1.5 lanes of the access road to the mall. After an hour of calls, a wrecker was located that could haul said camper trailer out.
While this is happening, it was realized that hardware was missing for the antenna, and there was no rope to guy the tower. A few trips back to the hardware store cured that. Everything FINALLY got set up, and the radio acted up. Wouldn't put out power. It's now past 3 P.M.
About 5, the owner of the property shows up, and says "Who gave you permission to be here"? They informed that they had called the number listed on the sign on the lot, but got a recording, and left a message. They figured discretion being the better part of valor, they tore it all down, and gave up after 2 contacts. Next year, they had a better site. Guess it happens to the best of us.
The Field Day Fiasco...  
by K3FT on June 13, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
There is not a person alive who ever participated in a FD that has not accumulated an abundance of war stories! Since I have done so, I have my share, just like you. Three of the more memorable ones come to mind. To wit..

1) The time one operator who 'knew all there was to know about staking the guys on towers' emphatically insisted that we use small sticks to hold the guy ropes end for the 35 foot masts. We tried to tell him that the ground was soft (due to rain) and that it wouldn't work but you know how these people are.... ;-) Well, long story short.. they held...For a while. During rain that came (ineviteable for FD, just like Dayton!) we all watched with some amusement as each mast made a slow and graceful arc to the ground as the guy stakes all gave way. Needless to say, the 'expert' was awfully quiet the rest of the weekend.

2) The year we had a longwire strung out on the ground prior to installing it across a tree limb for HF. There was an electrical storm brewing in the distance. You could see the black clouds, hear the distant claps of thunder and see the dim reflections of the in-cloud lightning bolts as they discharged. We all were well aware of what happens when aroused and excited electrons start their ionized dance so we sanely left the wire alone and retreated to the safety of a tent to stay dry and secure until the storm passed. Even though it was dry where we were, the air was sufficiently charged that the wire picked up a rather large amount of induced voltage. In fact it was so active that the free end was actually shooting arcs and sparks off of itself to the earth and it was moving along its' length due to teh mechanical nature of the discharging making it shake. One of our guys comes over, sees the wire lying there, says "What's that?" and proceeds to reach for it. Before anyone could say "NO! DON'T!", he grabbed it firmly with his hand and gave a pull. Immediately, he 'jumped' back and with a violent toss of his arm released the wire. Needless to say.. his language was NOT in keeping with Part 97! He was not permanently injured (thank God!) but he did mention that his arm 'tingled' a bit.

3) Our Club needed a grill to cook in. One of our members volunteered to go purchase one. He was directed to get a 'good one that would withstand the heat and would last' because the Club would keep it and use it for other events. Specifically, the Weber brand pot-type grill was recommended because it was known to be durable, reliable, and well-built. Well, he went and bought a grill. (It was NOT a Weber, but some off brand) When asked, he said 'I didn't want to spend all that money for a Weber and besides this one was just as good!'. Several people commented that it was the Club's money that he spent because he would get reimbursed, but he persisted and said 'It's just as good. It will be OK!' The grill was set up next to the CW trailer. The charcoal was loaded, the lighter fluid applied, and the match lit. For a while.. things went OK. Several members then noted that there was fire on the grass UNDERNEATH the grill. At first they thought it was charcoal embers that had slipped through the vent holes in the bottom. But the fire got larger. It was THEN noted that there were flames dripping off the lower OUTSIDE skin of the grill. Seems the outer paint was bubbling and catching fire due to the transmitted heat from the red-hot charcoal. The grill was NOT painted with fireproof paint! Quickly it was extingushed andall was safe again. The person who bought the grill said he could take it back and get a refund. He was instructed to take it back and GET A WEBER grill this time. He was, as you can imagine, rather interested FINALLY in doing what the Club directed him to do. Again.. like the guy with the guy stake ideas.. he was VERY QUIET the rest of the weekend.

Ahh FD!

Such fun!


Chuck K3FT

RE: The Field Day Fiasco...  
by W4KSR on June 13, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I've seen temporary tower guys driven through water pipes, and electrical cables. Plus the dipole which no one could figure why the SWR was so high, and the tuner was arcing. One leg was shorted right to the tower! Then one fellow, who was wheelchair bound was rolling through, and snagged the extension cords. Radios, and computers started travelling across the table.
RE: The Field Day Fiasco...  
Anonymous post on June 13, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Field Day aka National Green Horn Day because there are a lot of
Greenhorns operating it and it shows.
RE: The Field Day Fiasco...  
by AC4GT on June 14, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
That was a good story...A bit long but GOOD,,AC4GT
RE: The Field Day Fiasco...  
by W5RJ on June 17, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Hell, it was a good story. I for one enjoyed it ! But, now you know why I operate from home on field day !!
The Field Day Fiasco...  
by W8FAX on June 17, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Good story. A lot of it true or nearly so I guess. A good reminder to play safe. It only takes one thoughtless moment to injure or kill someone. I surely don't want to be the guy who has to help your wife sell your stuff at half price because of something stupid that you or someone else did. PLEASE play safe and keep a safe site. Remember, there will be children and many unskilled folks around.....Have fun....AL
RE: The Field Day Fiasco...  
by N5NJ on June 18, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
As far as 'green-horns' go, Field Day is the best opportunity to get new hams involved in on-the-air HF activities. Every time I hear someone new, it warms my heart as that is where I was 28 years ago.

Enough derogatory stuff. OK ?

The funniest thing I ever heard on Field Day was when one of our operators said:

"Is that a roger ?" in order to confirm a contact.

The response he got was:

"Nope, Roger's in the other tent, would you like me to go get him?"

73 & see y'all on FD!
Bob N5NJ
RE: The Field Day Fiasco...  
by KB0LIV on April 5, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Ow! Sides hurting from laughing! Reboot!
Boot Linux

I'll echo the safety aspect, please, please, please (this is coming from a 22 year old male) be careful. Our group has yet to have a serious accident, because we play it safe. We also made it a "dry" event, for the safety aspect, and because we had people under 21 on site, and had invited some Boy Scouts (BSA policy that scouting events are dry).

Of course, this didn't stop me from asking, while en route "Do I need to grab anything else on the way over?" and getting a response of "A 12 pack of Sam Adams would be wonderful!"

Where do I sign for this year's event?
The Field Day Fiasco...  
by KD7ZRO on March 7, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
That will probaly be me at mt first field day(shame on me for not going to one yet)!
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