DX Stories by Paul M. Dunphy, VE1DX

The DX Cat

There are often things that defy explanation. Yesterday, one of the local QRPers made his way up the hill, this one puffing a bit the last few yards. He was carrying a cardboard box with the cover folded over and he set it gently on the table in our shack. “Want a cat?” he said, getting right to the point and looking us right in the eye. We are not often lost for words, and many will attest to this fact. This time, however, we came close. “A cat!” was all we could get out . . . but we quickly recovered and put forth our best DX face.

“Yes” the QRPer continued, “a cat. And not just any cat either. A real DX cat!” We thought about this for a moment, for it wasn’t immediately clear what the difference was between a DX cat and a regular cat. So we carefully lifted the cover of the box and had a look. “Looks like any other cat to us”, we said to the QRPer. “What makes this one any different?” At this point we were ready for about anything, including some variant of the tale in QST years ago about the cat that copied CW . . . and we were aware that story had appeared in the April issue.

The QRPer was serious. “I’ve had this cat for almost five years now. And I’m convinced that at least half of the DX I’ve worked is a direct result of this cat. He’s always in the shack with me. He likes the heat from the amp. Why, he’s spent hour after hour laying on top of it, sometimes sleeping, but most of the time he watches me break pileups. He knows when I make a QSO . . . he perks right up when he hears me send RR TU 5NN. A real DX cat! And I’d never have done it if he wasn’t there with me.”

We had to know more, for instead of answering questions, the QRPer’s explanation was generating more. “How does this cat, or any cat for that matter, help you break pileups?” The QRPer was prepared, “You know that in this world of DX, not everything is obvious, and that to be a real DXer, you have to be a believer. And that if something works, like your method of tail-ending or the way you time your transmissions, or any of a dozen other things, then you don’t change it. And while you may never be quite sure why, if it works, you keep doing it, right?” We had to agree that this was indeed true. For we too had some techniques that worked, some of which defied logical explanation.

“Well” the QRPer continued, “it’s like that with my cat. If he’s in the shack, lying on the amp, I usually break the pileup in a call or two. If he’s somewhere else in the house, I call for hours. This cat is one of the Mysteries of the Ages, one of the Eternal Enigmas of DXing. I don’t know how he does it, but he helps me work the DX.” At this point we were still a bit skeptical, but we had learned long ago that the road to DX understanding often took strange turns. Maybe the QRPer was on to something. So we shrugged and nodded in agreement.

We still were confused, so we asked the obvious question, “If this cat is so good, and for whatever reason, helps you blast your way through all these pileups, why are you giving him away?” The QRPer looked us right in the eye and replied, “It’s like this”, he said, “I’ve worked a lot of DX with this cat . . . probably got over 150 new ones while he was in the shack. Now, I’ve been thinking that, in keeping with the amateur’s code, this is giving me an unfair advantage. As DXers, we all should help each other, right? And this cat has helped me get my DXCC and then some. So I figured I should let someone else have him for awhile. You’ve always helped me with DX advice, steered me in the right direction and taught me most of what I know about DXing. And, in appreciation of all this, I’m going to give you my DX cat!”

We didn’t know quite what to say. And we really didn’t have a chance, for the QRPer was out the door and making his way down the hill, with his hands in his pockets, whistling away. We looked over at the cat. By now he had crawled out of the box and was starting to explore the shack. What could we do? We’d never had a cat before. What does one do with a cat? Especially a valuable one like this, a DX cat. So we got out some milk and gave it to him. The cat was agreeable, drank the milk and then hopped up on our amp, sniffed it a few times and lay down with a sleepy look. Son of a Gun! Maybe the QRPer was right. The amp was on, warmed up and ready for the next DX spot that might show up on the DX cluster. We had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. We couldn’t put our finger on it, but something in the QRPers stride when he’d left seemed a bit too carefree.

So we did what we always did when we were in need of enlightenment. We made our way up the hill and found the Old Timer. He was touching up the base of his tower with some anti-rust paint. We told him about our new cat and the QRPer’s newly found desire to share the secret of his DX success. The Old Timer put down his can of paint and his brush, wiped off his hands and looked at us with an amused grin. “This QRPer”, he said, “do you recall him working the 3B7 that was on last week?” We had to admit that we hadn’t. In fact, now that we thought about it, we remembered the QRPer complaining about not being able to crack the pileup with his 100 watts. “Why didn’t he work the 3B7?” we asked the Old Timer, “and why was he only running 100 watts?”

The Old Timer’s grin grew broader. “You didn’t hear? His amp is in for repairs. His cat has a bladder control problem.” A wave of enlightenment swept past us! And it wasn’t DX Enlightenment, either! We recalled the cat making himself comfortable on our own amp less than an hour ago . . . and he probably was still there. “Gotta run!” we told the Old Timer as we made our way out the door and back to the shack. Maybe, if we hurried, we could get the cat boxed up and over to that new DXer who had just moved in from Palos Verdes. For once we were in complete agreement with the QRPer. DXers should help each other. It sure would be in keeping with the amateur’s code if we were to share this DX cat with the new kid on the block. Absolutely! DXers share. Always! That’s one of the reasons why DX IS!

73/DX Paul VE1DX

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