This being January and the cold month of the year, one learns from experience that life is a bit warmer in the shack than most any place else. Then the Old Timer drops down off the hill and, as usual, we find much to talk about. Finally the Old Timer paused a moment, then laughed.
"I was talking with Sam, W6TSQ, the other noon", the Old Timer relates, "and Sam mentioned that one of the benefits of growing old is that one always has something to talk about. And if you are an old DXer you are twice blessed with garrulity". The Old Timer was right. DXers have always been known for their scintillating conversations. The best.
Then the QRPer came trudging up the hill, around the curve in the hillside where the foxes have their dens, across the open glade where the deer are usually feeding and to the QTH here where the raccoons will nightly steal all of Butch Cassidy's animal crackers out of the car's glove compartment if a car window is left open. The QRPer came with one of his always interesting philosophical questions.
"Tell me", this QRPer says, the smile on his face belying the iron in his voice "why are there so many on the DX bands who have neither sense, courtesy or consideration? Or am I expecting too much from those illogical and ill-mannered lids? Could you just give me a simple explanation why? Something easily understood, that is. And why hasn't the ARRL done something about it? Isn't that what they are there for?"
We looked at the Old Timer, the Old Timer looked at us. We nodded in his *direction, he nodded in ours. Then we got up to adjust the thermostat and intended not to return until the Old Timer spoke. We had long learned where some of these QRPer's questions could lead. Sometimes to a far, far distant land where no deep thinking has ever trod before. It was a time of trial and we excused ourselves. But the Old Timer was of sterner stuff, he spoke in answer.
"I gather that you are a bit dissatisfied after the recent contests and you probably missed a handful you wanted to work. Right?" And without even pausing for answer, he plunged on--
"Let us study things together", he said, the Old Timer being a well in advance contemporary of Lyndon B. Johnson and always ready to repeat Lyndon's phrasing. "What would you think of a case where one of the larger wheel horses of the ARRL should, when arising on a beautiful Saturday morning, decided to relax by doing a bit of rag-chewing on twenty meters and tuned up on the lower twenty five kaycees of the phone band. And there he runs into a horrendous pileup, every DXer worth his salt being in there and trying to work some other DXer. This including some rather rare DX stations and all counters for his contest score as well as some possible DXCC counters. And the wide track wheel horse, not being a DXer and possibly not realizing that he had tuned into a major contest and right astride the DX portion of the band, was shocked beyond description.
"`This could not be amateur radio`, the heavy duty one would later say in telling of his shock. Absolutely not! Why the first Article of the Amateur Code clearly states that amateurs are always gentlemen and certainly no gentleman, amateur or otherwise, could be within a hundred kaycees of that pounding and unrelenting cacophony of QRM on the lower edge of twenty meters. Never! It was a disgrace to amateur radio and that was the verdict. The verdict without appeal. It was a disgrace.
"Then QST gets into the act. DXers are lectured, pointedly being reminded that often their activity is marked by thoughtlessness, lack of consideration and even are often unnecessary. Also, that frequently the DX contest activity interferes with other 'worthwhile` activities, specifically named being ragchews along with a vague reference to '..a host of other worthwhile activities'.
"The editorial goes on to offer a solution, that when a rare or new country arises, or a contest is in session, that DXers should confine their activity to a reasonable section of the band and that '...10kHz of the band strikes us as being sufficient for nearly any situation....'". The Old Timer leaned closer to the QRPer to hold his attention while he made his point. "You are aware of such proposals popping up from time to time, aren't you?", and the QRPer shook his head in response.
"You're kidding", was all he could say, "it really never happened, did it? It just could not happen, could it?" In turn, the Old Timer nodded his head.
"It did happen before and it can happen again. Check QST for April 1983, page 9, for the editorial. Check QST for June of the same year for some comments on the editorial. Look on the "Correspondence Page", this being on page 65, to see how some members responded. You might even note one suggestion given in a letter which would be to correct the problem by moving to eliminate all uninhabited islands from the DXCC country list as well as to make a requirement that all DXpeditions, to be accepted for credit, must be self-financed with only a reasonable reimbursement for QSL costs being allowed. But you should, if possible, read the ARRL editorial and the replies it engendered. You might find it interesting. The writer of the ARRL editorial is still on the masthead of the magazine so do not think that the ideas expressed in the editorial are dead. Hardly!".
The QRPer was quiet for a bit, finally asking: "But what does all of this mean? What can be done when obviously there should be some thought given to the problem? What do you think?
Again things were quiet for a bit, the Old Timer looking out the window and across the valley to the far ridge where the cloud level was starting to descend. "It probably will rain by evening", he commented and then got back to the QRPer.
"Forty years or so back", the Old Timer said, "DXing and DXers were considered mostly as a strange and hard to understand small clan of amateurs who apparently had turned up the wrong road somewhere along the way. They were there but often their there was not the there of the regulation amateur, the admired amateur often hailed in the pages of QST. Specifically, those more noble types were the rag-chewers, the traffic-men, the emergency nets and the like. DXers were not only on a different track but sometimes even hard to understand let alone tolerate.
"Things have changed over the years. Sometimes the change has been more marked in recent years than in other times. But what DXers need within their own organizations or among the DXers at large is an awareness and understanding of acceptable operating procedures. To expect this to leap forth full blown when needed is asking too much. At times some DX bulletins, one way or another, have pointed the way but, admittedly, this is a delicate and complex area to prod in and often the efforts to promote some better ways were marked more by indirect statements than strident edicts. In short, the action was by nudging, not by confrontation. Unfortunately, you do not see too much of this gentle persuasion these days. I think it is needed"
"One can be sure that eventually something will be done. What I worry about is whether it will be initiated by DXers, the ones mostly affected, or will it be done by someone not a DXer but completely confident that they know everything necessary and a bit more. It might not be the thing to hope for, someone other than the DXers making the rules. I think the DXers ought to examine their own navels before someone else does it for them".
We could see that the QRPer was absorbing some of this, it would be too much to hope that one exposure would assure a lifetime of clean living and dedicated DXing. But one can live in hope. One always should. One might even help to get the seed implanted.
Then the Old Timer spoke again. "Why are we always so ready to raise a criticism of some offensive DXing when the one in question is often in a distant state and not a local problem? How often are such matters brought up in a local club meeting for airing? My guess will be that it would be a hard item to find on any club agenda. Yet most active DXers will acknowledge that at times it is a grievous problem and something should be done. Done by someone else, that is."
The QRPer was quiet for a bit, this one was thinking. But the Old Timer was not yet finished. "Look up those QST issues I named", he suggested. The `Correspondence' item I mentioned in the June 1983 issue starts off with the heading: 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly DXer`. It should ring a bell--or something".
It was enough. The QRPer did not tarry long but later we were to wonder how he might respond to the Old Timer's admonitions. The Old Timer had given the message very clearly, DXers must either set the acceptable parameters of operating or someone else might try to do it for them. And along the way these will also use the opportunity to include some improvements that DXers will learn later they neither needed, wanted or should have been blessed with.
We tell this tale because it might be interesting not only to note what happened a decade or so back but also to note how in other areas and other states some DXers even in these best of times lack consideration, sensitivity and that there are even some who believe their 'rights' have priority over the rights of others. Fortunately, such does not exist in this western edge, the land of eternal summer and unlimited DX fraternalism. As always, we are different. Naturally.
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