Thursday, July 24, 2008

On the Shoulders of Legends...

After weeks of trying, I finally managed to work Rex Turner, W5RCI in nearby EM44. For weeks I've been listening to Rex chat with some of his buddies in the early morning hours, but have failed to attract his attention with my small signals.

I deliberately avoided working any other stations in EM44, wanting Rex to be my first for that grid. Why you ask? History, I suppose. I've always been a fan of studying the past, and that extended into my interest in VHF. For years before getting involved, I read CQ-VHF, The World Above 50mhz, and related materials, knowing that someday I'd want to be involved in weak signal work.

Over time, certain callsigns appear over and over in those pages, and Rex's call was very well known even to a newcomer like me. Rex has been one of the dominant weak signal operators in the Southern part of the United States for almost half a century. He helped to pioneer most of the advances that we take for granted today. Long haul tropo, meteor scatter, EME, and perhaps most importantly, the 222mhz band.

Rex has long had one of the best 222 signals on the band, and has championed it's use for decades. He's nearly everyone's "Mississippi" on 222.

One of the best books written about the weak signal world is an out of print book called, "Beyond Line of Sight". It's a compilation of articles from the pages of QST that cover most of the propagation modes used on V/U. Just scanning that book, I must have noticed Rex's callsign two dozen times.

Just days before the July CQ-VHF contest, I finally worked Rex on 2 Meters, he reported my signal right at the noise level 5/5...but I couldn't have cared less. It was just a thrill to work him and know that his QSL card would soon grace my collection.

Days later during the contest itself, Rex got on for a few hours on Sunday afternoon to hand out some contacts. His signal was loud and powerful on 2 Meter SSB---and he reported my own signal 5/9. We quickly QSY'ed to 432.1mhz to attempt a 70cm contact. While I could copy him with ease on SSB, he couldn't pull me out of the noise. So I switched to CW using an old J-5 straight key.

Immediately Rex came back to me reporting my signal 599...we chatted at about 20wpm for the next few minutes. He told me that he hoped to work me on 222 soon. (My 736R is in the shop right now)...and I replied that I couldn't wait for that.

After the contact, I was reminded of those Visa commercials:

IC-910H-$1,700 dollars
Directive Systems Yagi-$125 dollars
SSB Electronics Pre-amp $380 dollars
Working a legend on 432 with a straight key $Priceless

One of the best things about being a VHF Man is that most of the people who pioneered these bands are still with us, and many of them are still active on the air. Unlike HF, where the immortals are long gone, on the high bands, we can still sit at the feet of the masters, learn from them, and work them on the air.

Thanks, Rex. It was an honor.

73 DE N1LF

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