It is evident now that we are getting onto the back side of the summer curve and that the sun, the sunspots and the A and K-indexes and all that, are moving south towards the equator. This also brings some early signs of the coming winter season. A cord of firewood for the winter's fireplace was delivered last week and needed moving up the hillside, the whole cord of wood, to the back of the QTH. One always needs a tale of woe to merit sympathetic listening and that is ours for this month. Enough woe to make even a Spartan sob.
After a few trips up the brick walk, we got the idea that we had not talked with the Old Timer for a couple of days and up the hill we went, our keen sense of priorities prevailing.
The Old Timer had had a visitor who was just leaving. He did look familiar, we had seen him in other places at other times but we could not really nail this one down. The Old Timer in introducing this one cleared the mystery: "This is a QRPer from up in the next county who recently worked his next to last needed DX Country on the current list. He says that that last one will show in about nine months, more or less".
A DXer! DXers never meet as strangers and this one was one of the anointed. Naturally, but he was leaving and we were arriving and soon he was gone. I later would recall that I might have asked him some important questions. Such as how did he find that next to last needed one and which was the last one that he needed. Anyone who has worked 300 or more DXCC countries knows the anxiety and long wait that must be endured for the last handful needed. Some really deserving DXers never do get all the current countries that they need, or a second chance at ones they missed, though they may spend a lifetime in the search.
The late Don Wallace, W6AM, and his long need for CR8-Damao, often comes to mind. Don would always be ready to talk DXing but if you asked him which ones he missed, you would get a small sigh, a shake of that gaunt frame and a too obvious regret for not catching that single one, CR8/Damao, during the short time it was on. A DXer will remember such things, a DXer will also appreciate the enduring regret that lingers for having missed a needed one when it was on.
So we asked the Old Timer what one this upcountry QRPer still needed. Secretly a DXer will always feel an internal smugness when he hears of someone needing a country that he already has. That feeling must be embedded when one rubs the printing on a newly issued DXCC certificate.
"I really don't know", the Old Timer said, "he never tells of what he needs, only mentions it when he has worked it. A number of times I have wondered how he does it. I can remember a number of times that he worked a rare or new one and when few if any other DXers, even knew it was on. At first I was suspicious, then one day he let something slip. I don't know if I should even mention it. I really don't".
The tips of our ears were quivering. We did not want just a hint without the facts. As a certified DXer we demanded our due. "Tell us!", we demanded. Later I was certain that the Old Timer was but posing with that reluctance, he had to tell someone the story and, naturally, we were the most Deserving One around. On the Hill or elsewhere. Believe that!
"You would never believe the story", the Old Timer said and we were quick to voice belief in anything that he said or believed. Maybe even in a few that he did not. We got our way.
"What do you know about jasper", the Old Timer asked and we had to acknowledge that we knew it was found on the hill here, that it often was used forjewelry but little else. I soon learned that the Old Timer might really believe, in this instance, in the merchandise that he was selling.
"Jasper", the Old Timer intoned, "is a variety of chalcedonic to cryptocrystalline quartz and composed essentially of SiO/2, meaning silica, and has the hardness of quartz. Ancient wisdom held that jasper has medicinal values, this including the belief that wearing jasper strengthens the stomach. It does take a polish and when polished, is an attractive stone and used in making jewelry. Did you know that?"
Of course we did not. But we also would not argue the point. We wanted to know what this was all leading up to. We did find out. We are still wondering how we can exploit this knowledge before any of the other less Deserving DXers learn of it.
We leaned forward, nodded our head firmly and told the Old Timer to continue. We had to know.
"My friend from up-country", the Old Timer continued, "let it slip one time that he has a DX Stone in the rear of his property, up a hillside like around here. He let it slip one time that he can get DX messages from the stone though he does admit that it took him some time to learn the technique. But he swears by it and the way he finds needed countries makes me wonder. What do you think?"
What were we supposed to think? We have long known that a few DXers with poor antenna locations and low power have worked countries that many DXers long for endlessly. And these are solid, true blue, ARRL certified, QSL verified contacts. They do it, say nothing and many wonder. Who would not?
"This QRPer", the Old Timer continued, "says that when he is looking for a needed one, he will go to his back yard jasper outcrop, place the palms of his hands there on a flat area and think of the country he needs. Now that he is down to one current DX country, he may not get many messages but he is certain he will one of these days. And he is absolutely certain, not just hopeful. He is certain that he will get the message when one is due and available. I may be skeptical of his claim but I cannot dispute his success. I just cannot".
We realized that we had been listening with our mouth open. We shut it. Then we got to thinking, thinking of jasper and the hidden powers often attributed to stones. Diamond, rubies, garnet, amethyst, jade and the like. And we still had some of the words of the Old Timer still fresh in our memory but yet with some questions unanswered.
He had said that jasper is a variety of quartz. What has long been the method of establishing a radio frequency? Quartz! Quartz crystals.
And what was the main element in the composition of jasper? Essentially silica, Si0/2. And in what gear in a DXers shack will you find silicon?. Transmitter, receiver and most peripheral devices. You might even say that DX is dead without silica. Some tend to think so.
And where in the Western Reaches does one find the greatest collection of Big Gun, high country total DXers? Silicon Valley! Where are the ARRL's Pacific Division reps located, the ARRL Director, the Vice-director and the member of the DX Advisory Committee. Who elects the officers of the Northern California DX Club? Silicon Valley or its suburbs. And then the light came on in the back of our mind and really took over.
Years back we had picked up a nice square block of jasper on an outcrop up the hill here. We had an idea that it would make a nice bookstop if polished. We never did polish it and a visiting DXer from Silicon Valley had asked for it. We gave it to him, foolish as we could be in our younger days. The realization was now coming that this one had prospered, DX wise, in recent years, and we were now starting to wonder if his good fortune was due to our stone? Our stone! We could not shake the thought.
Finally we thought of the British Empire and how the coronation of a new ruler is made while the one to be crowned is seated in a chair, underneath which is a large stone. The Stone of Scone. And that is a fact. Absolutely.
We finally asked the Old Timer: "How did this friend of yours get wise to this power of the jasper, and how did he learn to read the messages?" We asked the question, the answer brought more confusion to our thinking.
"I asked him the same question", the Old Timer said, "all he would say that he learned the same way he learned code. Long and unceasing persistence. He would say nothing further".
"He did claim, however", the Old Timer continued, "that really most of his knowledge came one afternoon when he found a little, old man with a green hat sleeping in the shrubbery in the back of his lot. When questioned, the little man would not say anything but that he had come to visit "....the ancestral family stone". this being a large block of jasper in a nearby outcropping. But the QRPer would not let the Little Man go and finally the QRPer was told that the stone gave off message vibrations when properly approached and he was shown how to hear them. And that is exactly what that QRPer says happened.
We had to think this over. That visitor from Silicon Valley had built himself a footrest for his operating position and I am sure that he had put that large chunk of jasper into the footrest, the jasper that we had given him in a weak and ignorant moment. But that jasper outcrop up at the turn of the fireroad was still there. If we did not say anything about it, a lot of it could be acquired with little effort. We were already thinking of getting a diamond saw and cutting slabs of jasper with which we would pave the floor of the shack, that to ensure that we would never miss any DX emanations and especially any with vibrations about countries we needed.
Maybe even some would go on the walls around the operating position. We had to stand up and walk around the Old Timers shack, the thought of the potential of the unleashed DX powers we now knew about and shortly would capture, was causing our breath to quicken until it was coming in short gasps.
Come to think of it, we had several times voiced passing greetings to a very small man we met while walking the fire road up the hill here. A little man wearing a green hat. He had once mentioned that he came from Nebraska, I was certain now that he had come from the McGillicuddy Reeks in County Kerry. Had we, again, missed a golden DX opportunity? Kerry was one of the places where Maud Gonne and William Butler Yeats would once go and put their ears to the ground listening for the little people they were sure were there, living underground.
We knew that we had to keep this quiet, that a lot of the less successful DXers would scoff at the story of the Little Man and the magical powers of jasper. Thus, should the word be passed on to some members of the NCDXC, thought must be given not to release any of this information to the Undeserving.
Besides the Old Timer had mentioned the ancient knowledge that those who wore jasper would gain protection against stomach problems. And what true blue DXer has not had an upset stomach from the fierce stress of trying to break through a pile-up to work a rare or needed country? What one indeed? And the bile that flows when one misses out. Every true blue DXer knows that feeling. AAAARRGH!
Later, thinking about the DX properties implied in jasper, we realized that possibly we had stumbled onto the reason that there are more MHOs on the west coast than any place else in the country. Jasper is relatively common in the west. And also, possibly there are more Little People sighted in the woods here than any place else outside of Ireland.
This has to be cut short. I need to get up the hill to check my jasper claim!
Hugh Cassidy WA6AUD 77 Coleman Drive San Rafael CA 94901
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