DX Stories by Paul M. Dunphy, VE1DX

Be Prepared!

One of the local QRPers came by the other day, this one with a look of concern on his face and a lack of joy in his stride. "What's up?", we asked. The QRPer sat down and started right off with his concerns. "Don't you remember back in August when the gurus at the Jet Propulsion Lab and the folks at NASA discovered the first sunspots on the new cycle?" We had to admit that there were reports on the packet system that this had been said. And, we seemed to recall an ARRL DX Bulletin mentioning these newly discovered sunspots. "Well", the QRPer replied, "the bands have been pretty flat this fall and I just checked with Sunspot Louie. He tells me the flux has been between 70 and 75 all fall and winter. Louie says he doesn't seen any indication there will be a significant increase in the sunspot count the rest of this winter, either." The QRPer let out a long sigh and just stared at the floor. What could we say? We were faced with the QRPer pointing out scientific evidence on the one hand and the impeccable track record of Sunspot Louie on the other. The QRPer looked at us, but his eyes were only semi-focused. It was clear he was fearing a Maunder Minimum and terrified of mentioning it. And every true blue DXer knew the mere fact of speaking of such heresy could bring one on.

Son of a Gun! What could we do? We thought of taking the QRPer down to see the Leader of the Palos Verdes Sundancers. If anyone knew about solar cycles and bringing on the Great Days of DXing, it was the folks in the barrancas of Palos Verdes country. However, we had second thoughts about talking this QRPer to the location where sunspot cycles are born and raised to maturity. This QRPer did not have the full grasp of DX IS! To allow one who did not have a grasp of the Mysteries of the Ages or an understanding of the Eternal Enigmas access to the Sundancers was not something we were prepared to do.

So, when faced with a seemingly impossible situation as we often were with the locals, we hauled the QRPer up the hill to the Old Timer. We diverted the QRPer off to the Old Timer's mailbox to look for a shipment of bureau cards and quickly explained the situation to him. The Old Timer thought for a moment and waited for the QRPer to return. "No bureau cards today", he sputtered, "no mail at all." He sat down and repeated his worries of the low solar flux to the Old Timer, who listened with a poker face.

The Old Timer looked at the QRPer and said, "We are all waiting for the Golden Days of DXing to return, right? And it's never clear when the previous cycle has ended and the new one has begun until months afterwards, don't you agree?" The QRPer stood up for a moment, as if to argue, then sat back down again. "Well", he replied, "I've never been through a cycle minimum before, so I can't really say." The Old Timer glared at the QRPer rather sternly, then softened his look a bit and simply said, "DX IS! Be a Believer, and you will work the DX! You can't make DX or work the DX that was, you can only work the DX that IS! The flux will rise again . . . and until it does, work the low bands or look for the shorter openings and greyline paths. Stop worrying about the numbers. Work the DX that IS!" The QRPer was not satisfied, "But why all the excitement about a sunspot on the opposite side of the equator last August? Why isn't Sunspot Louie reporting the flux in the 80-90 range instead of the low 70's? Where's the DX?"

The Old Timer's look sharpened and he snapped back at the QRPer, "If you have to keep asking these questions, it's clear you are not one of the Deserving. You've got all the answers, yet none of the understanding. Only a DXer understands DXing and only a DXer understands the true meaning of DX IS!" The QRPer had a quizzical look on his face as the Old Timer concluded with, "Maybe, for you, The Great Days of DXing will never return! You are not prepared and you are not a Believer!" And that was it. He spun around in his chair, clicked on the rig and the linear and swung the beam west. Within 5 minutes he was tapping out a three way QSO with DU9RG and VS6BG on 17-metres! Son of a Gun! We hadn't worked Robin or Brett in over a year. We wrote down 18.073 MHz and made off our shack in a hurry. The last we saw of the QRPer he was still staring at the Old Timer, wondering why there was an opening to the far east when the flux was 72! As the Hero of Mafeking always said: "Be prepared!" Maybe this particular QRPer was only prepared to ask questions! DX IS!

Best Regards, Paul

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