DX Stories by Paul M. Dunphy, VE1DX

A Slip of the Tongue

One of the Local QRPers came around the bend and beat his way up the hill. He flopped down in the chair and it was evident he felt he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. “What’s new?” we asked, not really sure we wanted to know.

“There’s no DX” he said sadly and slowly, “and I really don’t think there will be any in the foreseeable future, either.” This got our attention! Any mention of less DX, let alone no DX, sent shivers of fear up the spine of all DXers. “What do you mean?” we asked. “Look at the way things are going”, he said with a disheartened look. “I spent four long years watching propagation fade and suffering through the bottom of the cycle. Why, I just got my tower and beam up when 10-metres closed and 12 and 15 weren’t far behind. And you kept telling me to be a believer. You said that the Great Days of DXing would return. And I was a believer, too!” He looked us straight in the eye and continued on, “I believed. And I waited. I watched as the Palos Verdes Sundancers finally brought on the new cycle. And here we are, on the upswing, the flux is 140 and where is the DX?” He stood up, sweat dripping from his face and he was starting to shake. “Where’s the DX?”

“What do you mean?” we replied, following his beady little eyes as he paced back and forth, “There’s DX for all, although for some more than others. What about those three new ones out over the western horizon that are pretty much guaranteed to get the nod from Newington in September? You worked all three and you were here just last week showing us the cards. In a month or two you’ll have three brand new counters to add to your total. What more do you want?”

“What more do I want!!??” he stammered. He stopped pacing back and forth and looked straight at us again. “Those stations are not DX today . . . they are DX that WAS and DX that maybe WILL BE! I want DX now. I want the DX that IS! You, of all people, should know this. You keep telling me I don’t understand the true meaning of DX IS! Well, buster, the bands are dead. Stone cold dead! And, as far as I can tell, they will stay that way. Instead of DX IS!, the way I see it, it’s DX ISN’T!”

With this, he threw himself back down in the chair, wiped a bit of the sweat from his trembling upper lip and waited for an answer. We were silent for a moment, for we recalled the last time someone had uttered those same blasphemous words “DX ISN’T” . . . and that had been another QRPer over 25 years ago. That QRPer had been unsubscribed from the WCDXB, expelled from the local DX club and told never to speak of DX again! And while that had been 25 years ago, and times and DX standards seemed to be changing, such blasphemy like “DX ISN’T!” is not to be taken lightly. We were concerned that word might get out.

So we looked the QRPer straight in the eye, raised our finger for emphasis and began, “Listen son,” we said in a firm and rather loud voice, “you’ve just uttered the one phrase that no true blue DXer may ever say. You’re lucky no one else is here. Never speak those words again! Never! Do you realize what you said? Surely it was a one time slip of the tongue, right?” The QRPer looked around a bit to make sure no one could hear, then replied, “Do you really think it’s that bad? I never thought about it until just now, but I think you are right. How could I have been so dumb!” He began to shake even more. We got the uncomfortable feeling that there might be more to this. We had seen QRPers in tight situations before and this one had the all too familiar look of hidden guilt.

“Ahh . . . well . . . errr . . . you see” the QRPer began to stammer, “I was, well, you know . . . a couple of nights ago I was tuning 20-metres.” He was in full confession mode now, so we just looked sternly on as he continued, “I came across this net. A DX net of some sort, I think. There was a guy who sounded like Elmer Fudd taking a list of some sort. So I muttered DX ISN***” Whap! We slammed our hand over his mouth before he could get it out and held it there until he nodded that he was OK. “Whew!” he exclaimed, when we let him go, “I almost said it again.” We just looked at him and he continued. “So anyhow, after I heard that list I moved on and came across another one. And I think I said it again. Yes, I’m sure I did. And then I noticed that the bands were not quite as good as they were a little earlier, so I said it again and turned the rig off. And you know . . . I haven’t heard any DX since. What have I done?” He was starting to look more and more afraid.

“What have you done?” we roared, “What have you done? You might well have blown the entire solar cycle! That’s what you could very well have done. Did you know that the Ap is 39 today and there are active sunspot regions everywhere . . . the type that generates those killer X-ray flares? Did you know this?” The QRPer looked at us in stark terror, “No. No I didn’t. Did I cause it? Was it me? What can I do to fix it?”

We took a deep breath and looked at the QRPer who was shaking like a leaf and on the verge of tears. We had to admit to ourself that, although he had taken out the bands for a lot of DXers, we did feel a bit of sympathy for him. Not a lot, but a little. So we told him to get a pencil and a piece of paper and come with us. We made our way down to the barrancas of Palos Verdes country and found the leader of the Sundancers. “What can I do for you guys?” he said above the rattle of the tenor bongos. “There is an emergency situation”, we replied, “and we need your help.” He looked at us and said, “How bad is it? Is the flux dropping a bit? We’re a little short-staffed with summer vacations, but I was sure that we had things covered. What is the problem?” We told the QRPer to write down on the piece of paper what he had said and to show it to the Leader of the Sundancers. One glance at the paper and his eyes widened and his jaw dropped. “You’re right!” the Leader exclaimed, “this is trouble. I’ll have to call the folks back from vacation. How many times was this said?”

“At least four times”, we answered grimly, “and over a two to three day period.” The Leader of the Palos Verdes Sundancers shook his head slowly and then said, “we better get started.” He picked up the phone and called the tower at LAX and told them what to expect. It wouldn’t be sonic booms, but it was going to sound like it and the controllers had to be notified. “Bring out BIG DX!” he yelled to the dancers. Within minutes the thundering boom of the massive bass bongo shattered the air. “This could take up to a week” he bellowed between the thuds as we made our way back up the hill. They were peaking 5.5 on the Richter scale. Energy like this was usually reserved for the week before the CQ WW contest at the very bottom of the cycle. “Thanks!” we yelled, but it was clear he couldn’t hear us. When we were far enough away we turned to the QRPer and said, “Do you understand now? Do you realize that when you are told that the road to understanding the Eternal Enigmas of DX is often crooked, that you must listen? And that DX knowledge only comes with experience? Do you now see that what may seem like an innocent slip could mean disaster?”

The QRPer nodded and replied, “I sure do. I never realized the importance of protocol, or the significance of DX IS! before. And it’s a good thing I told you about this. It’ll be OK now, won’t it?” We took our time in answering. “Yes, probably so. If anyone can bring on the DX, it’s the Palos Verdes Sundancers. Even in the face of such terrible odds, they can pull off miracles. But tell no one of what happened. Not Sunspot Louie, his cousin Red Eyed Louie, any of the other QRPers and especially not the Old Timer! Never mention this again. Understand?” The QRPer shook his head in agreement. “I won’t!” he said as he made his way down the hill and around the bend. We looked out over the bay and then down toward Palos Verdes country where the Sundancers were hard at it. We decided that it wasn’t worth tuning the bands anymore today, and probably not even tomorrow. For while there was DX waiting over the horizon in the far reaches of those distant lands, there would be no signals heard until things settled down. And upon reflection, we decided that maybe this was a good thing, because it would give us time to see if we could find a QSL route for EP2MKO. DX IS!

73/DX Paul VE1DX (EX: VE1UK)

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