DX Stories by Paul M. Dunphy, VE1DX

Five and Nine

One of the Local QRPers came puffing up the hill the other day, this one with a confident look on his face. "I've been on the air for about a year now, and more recently, I've become serious about DXing. I guess I've finally seen the light. There are many facets to Amateur radio, and I've often heard that the true measure of an Amateur is whether or not he's a 'good traffic man.' Well, I've concluded that this isn't so. I've tried everything and the plain truth is that DXers are the top echelon of Amateur radio. DXers stand tall, DXers are smarter, better looking and more technically competent. They have better equipment, more money and represent the very best in Amateur radio!"

We looked at this QRPer for a moment, then replied, "This is exactly what we've been telling you every time you come up and ask questions about the Eternal Enigmas of DXing and the Mysteries of the Ages. Why are you all of a sudden telling us what every true blue DXer already knows?" The QRPer was quick to reply, "I guess I was always hearing the answers, but not really understanding them. Then I experienced the 'DX moment!' . . . and I understood the meaning of DX IS!. I became one of the Enlightened Ones, one of the Deserving and a true blue DXer! I am a Believer . . . DX IS!"

We thought back over the years and how long it had taken us to understand all this. We recalled the Old Timer telling us about the early 1920's when the first Amateur trans-Atlantic spark transmission was heard . . . not worked, but just heard. And when in 1922 the French station 8AB on 100 metres worked 1M0 and 1XAM in the same evening. As the Old Timer had noted, this was CW, and marked the death knell for spark. This had been the beginning of DXing and even the Old Timer would often admit that it took many years after this for him to reach the plateau of DX enlightenment that this QRPer was describing. It was this that was troubling us, for while we wished the QRPer well, we found it difficult to understand how he had achieved the pinnacle of DX understanding in such a short time.

"Tell us more", we asked, "tell us about this 'DX Moment' and when everything became clear to you." The QRPer was not long in replying. "At first, one thinks that the Mysteries of DXing are shrouded in secrecy and somewhat akin to a long period of study and apprenticeship. We newcomers think this because that's what we are told. But I decided to look deeper . . . and I found the answer!! It's simple. The true meaning of DX IS! is simply the RST and nothing more." We looked at the QRPer and put forth our best poker face. What else could we do, for he was dealing and we had to wait for the draw. "I listened to the last two major contests and found that on SSB the signal report was always 59 and on CW it was always 5NN. I never heard any other report. Nothing but S9! So I started thinking about it. Rag-chewers and the like give 55 or 48 or whatever, but contesters always give 59. They never vary!"

We had to agree this was true, but we were having trouble with the correlation. "What does this have to do with being a true blue DXer and understanding the Eternal Enigmas of DXing?" we asked. "Simple", the QRPer replied. "Most contesters are also DXers. Maybe they are more into contesting that DXing because they have worked all the DX. But I am sure they are DXers at heart. And the 59 and 5NN RSTs are simply a carry over from their days of DXing." At this point we found ourselves agreeing in part, and perhaps the QRPer had a point about there being a strong similarity between DXers and contesters. But being in agreement with a QRPer on a downhill run, deep into explaining the true meaning of DXing is a sign of danger! We had been here before so we tried to get him focused back on the topic. "You may be right about contesters and DXers", we replied, "but why does a RST of 5NN explain everything?"

The QRPer ploughed on: "Well, it was listening to the contest that got me thinking about DX pileups and signal reports. And I tried to think of an instance where any exchange between a rare or semi-rare DX station was other than S9. And it never is. And the reason is ego! The DXpeditioner sitting on a rock in the middle of the frigid Antarctic or baking in the sun on a desolate reef isn't going to admit that he can't hear anything less than S9. He's risked his life and spent a lot of money to get there and he isn't going to admit that any signal he hears is less than S9! Never!! And likewise, the DXer sitting home in his shack with a monobander and a full-bore linear, or maybe a bit more, isn't going to send or accept anything less than 59 or 5NN. And it's as simple as that. True Blue DXers are always S9. Always! They always have been and they always will be. If you hear a DXer give a report of less, he is not one of the enlightened ones, not one of the Deserving, and he has a long way to go before he reaches genuine DX Understanding! And it took you Big Guns all these years to figure this out? Sometimes I wonder about you guys!"

And he was off down the hill, still puffing from the non-stop barrage of DX explanation. Son of a Gun! What could we say? We recalled working a 7P8 some years back. And while he was 33, we did give him a 59. But the 7P8 was serious about his report, and even though we asked for a repeat, the most he would give us was a 1 X 1 . . . and that's what he wrote on the QSL. We remembered fretting about sending it in to the league, to be examined under the magnifying glass of W3AZD. Don had looked and Don had counted it. We thought a bit more about what the QRPer had said. While at times it may be that the signal strength of a DX station is directly proportional to how badly you need it, we had to wonder if maybe the QRPer was oversimplifying things a bit. But were we sure? One of these days we are going to look at the top one hundred QSLs on our list and see if any of them are less than S9 . . . but not today. Why? Because the sunspots are returning, the bands are opening again and DX IS! And most of it is S9, too!

73/DX Paul VE1DX

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