There are advantages to living on a hillside. We had often wondered if fate had a part in this when we had picked this particular QTH many years ago. Beaming east, we had a clear shot at Europe, and any DX that raised its head out of the trenches was usually in the log within minutes. We soon learned, however, that the DX that exists in the Pacific, far out in those distant lands over the western horizon, had better be coming in long path. For try as we might, beaming into solid rock has its disadvantages. There is balance in nature.
We also found that living on a hillside provided two different perspectives on DX knowledge and advice. We learned to anticipate the Old Timer making his way down the hill from time to time, often stopping in to discuss many things, but mostly DX. And, even more often, we found that the local QRPers made their way up the hill, seeking answers to DX questions or offering suggestions on how things might be improved. Again, we had to reflect on the balance nature had provided in this area. Just the other day, we were thinking about this when one of the locals came up the hill to talk of DX and DXers.
"Maybe you can tell me something", he said, after finding himself a comfortable chair on the verandah. "When I first started DXing, things were different that today. I realize that things change and that technology is far different today than it was even five years ago. But there is a fundamental change in DXers. All they do now is fight on the Internet and on the packet systems. It seems to me that DXers spend more time sending rude E-mail and playing 'one-upmanship' than anything else. Why is this?"
We though about what the QRPer had asked and we were at a bit of a loss as to where to begin. We were beaming west on this one . . . for on the surface the QRPer seemed to have a point. Just as we were about to give it a shot, we saw the Old Timer making his way down the hill. As usual, he stopped and drew up a chair. In hindsight, he may have wished he had kept on going. The QRPer turned his attention to the Old Timer and repeated the question. We heaved an inward sigh of relief. The relief pitcher was on the mound! The Old Timer thought for a moment and then replied, "Why is this? You really don't know?" The QRPer shrugged and said slowly, "No, not really. I don't know. When I first got on the air, things were a lot different, that's all I know. I want to know what has changed. What made the DXers change so radically?"
The Old Timer took a deep breath. It was clear that the answer was obvious to him and he couldn't see why the QRPer was even asking the question. "Do you remember Bill, W7PHO?" he began. The QRPer nodded enthusiastically. "I sure do! He may have run a DX net, but he ran a tight ship. A real DXer." The Old Timer continued, "Then you remember Lloyd and Iris Colvin too, right? And Don Wallace, W6AM? And how about Dick, W0MLY? Remember when they all were active on the bands?"
"Yes, of course I do", the QRPer replied, "and they all were great DXers. That's my point. What has changed?" We were starting to see the Old Timer's point, but it was clear the QRPer wasn't even getting a glimmer. The Old Timer continued on: "Do you remember Gus, W4BPD?" The QRPer shook his head, "No, but I read all about him and I heard the stories of the times when he activated all the rare ones. He was a true blue DXer, just like the others you mentioned. All this has changed. Why?" The Old Timer simply wasn't getting anywhere, but he continued on anyhow, "OK, how about Dick Spenceley, KV4AA, and Stew Perry, W1BB who carried the word for 160 DX for so many years. And the great DXers who are still active, like Wayne, N7NG . . . remember when he was on from Clipperton? How about OH2BH? Martti's been everywhere, and some places twice. And the DX Bulletins. Do you remember Harvey McCoy of the Long Island DX Bulletin, Bob Winn of QRZ DX and Hugh Cassidy of the West Coast DX Bulletin? And what about Chod Harris, VP2ML and The DX Bulletin? And do you recall that time the three of us went to Dayton and we met Bob and Ellen White? What about Ron, ZL1AMO? Did you ever work Reinhard, DL1UF and Baulder, DJ6SI? Did you know that Kan, JA1BK is a member of the DX Hall of fame? And how many times have you heard Al Hix, W8AH, blast his way through the pileups?"
"Yes, yes! I remember all that. And every one you mentioned was, or still is, a true blue DXer! Every last one of them. Why I even recall some of the guys at the club talking about a fellow name Don Miller who was a great DXer in the early days. . . but they said nobody could explain or understand him." The Old Timer held up his hand and stopped the QRPer. "He was a special case and some day I'll tell you about Don. But right now you have to concentrate on those we've already discussed. There are many more, but these are enough to make the point. Now do you understand?"
"Understand what?" the QRPer replied, "I understand all these Hams were, or still are, great DXers. Some went on DXpeditions, some worked everything that moved, and some did both. But I don't understand why all the DXers stopped this and have taken up fighting on the Internet. That was my question and, while you've brought back a lot of great DX memories, you haven't answered my question. Why have all the DXers changed?"
The Old Timer was not to be deterred. "But I have answered your question, son. These ones you say are fighting and arguing on the Internet and packet. Do you remember their calls? What are their DX totals? How many DXpeditions have they been on?"
The QRPer sat back and stared at the two of us like he had just been clubbed between his beady little eyes. It took a few moments for it to sink in. "I don't remember their calls", he said slowly, "I don't think I've ever heard any of them on the air, either." He shook his head slowly as realization set in. "They aren't very active, are they?" The Old Timer looked right back at him and replied, "No, not at all. They don't have the time. They are not DXers. DXers work DX! DXers tune the bands. DXers go on DXpeditions. And DXers use the Internet and packet systems to exchange DX information. And that is why they are different. Subscribing to a DX Reflector does not make you a DXer! No more than subscribing to a DX Bulletin made Hams DXers in the Early Days."
The QRPer was starting to understand. "You're right!" he chimed in, "absolutely right. Why didn't I see it before? DXers haven't changed at all! Not one bit. I was mixing up DXers and non-DXers."
The Old Timer looked at him for a minute or so and then gave the final pitch, "The road to understanding is often slow and not always straight. But this afternoon you've made a leap forward. DXers are an unusual bunch", he continued on, "and true blue DXers are the top echelon of amateur radio. They are the ones who establish friendships that bring so many together from around the world. And they do this even though most will never meet face to face, but nevertheless they are close. They don't argue and fight on packet or the Internet or anywhere else. Those that do are not DXers! They may claim to be, but they are not, and they never will be. You are a DXer, son! Stand tall and be proud. Understand this but don't try to extend this understanding to one of these argumentative types who is not a DXer. It is a waste of time and energy. Let them fight it out on packet and on the Internet. You are different. Absolutely. Always remember that and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!" And with that he stood up, looked at us for few seconds and then made his way down the hill and over to the DX club meeting.
Son of a Gun! It was hard to find fault with the Old Timer's thinking. Most DXers, when they stop and think about it, can find instances where because they were a DXer and DXing was a way of life that they did things, or refrained from doing things, not often done by non-DX types. We had known this Inevitable Truth but had never thought it applied to the situation the QRPer had described. When the Old Timer speaks, it is like the fireworks over the Potomac on the 4th of July! DX IS!
73/DX Paul VE1DX (EX: VE1PMD, VE1UK, VE0UK, CJ1UK, etc.)
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