I think it was the summer of ’96. Zack Clobes had come by the house to visit with Adam. They had visited for a while in Adam’s room when Adam came out and asked me, if it would be all right if he went with Zack to the McPherson amateur radio clubs meeting Saturday. He said they always have a T-Hunt after the meeting and Zack wanted to try out a phased Doppler direction finder that Zack had built. Zack and Adam had been tuning it for about a week and Zack thought he had all the bugs worked out.
“Sure you can go with him son,” I said with a smile, then added, “do you care if I tag along son?”
“Don’t you have to work dad,” Adam asked?
“No son,” I answered, “this is a rare Saturday, one that a don’t have to work.”
“Just a minute,” Adam said, and he disappeared into his room to consult with Zack. Moments later they both appeared and Adam said, “ok you can come dad, then added, but don’t cause us any trouble.”
“Hey I wont son; no stupid questions nothing like that.”
“Ok,” he said, “Zack will pick us up at 9.”
Saturday came quickly and Zack was soon at our door to pick us up. “Just climb in the back seat,” Zack said.
As I looked in I saw an amazing array of wires and antenna’s and little cardboard boxes full of electronic devices.
“Just a second,” Zack said, as he moves the conglomeration to the side, “just don’t tug on any of the wires.”
“Is it smart to put electrical equipment in cardboard boxes Zack,” I asked.
“Well it’s all I could find and it provides a easy way to make adjustments until I get all the bugs out of it,” Zack said confidently and convincingly in only the way Zack could say it. Making me comtemplate if only for a second the possibility of storing water in a cardboard box.
Then I spotted the antenna; well I think it was an antenna. It had 4 rods sticking out of it and a wire mesh all inserted into a foam base.
“Hey Zack what’s this thing, I asked?” As I did so, I glanced Adam out of my right eye giving me that look of, dad your asking stupid questions again. With lighting quickness I came back with, “it’s an antenna isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Zack said, “it works by comparing and timing the radio wave as it passes from one rod to the other across from it.”
“Yes,” I said, “I thought so,” trying desperately to save face.
Before long we were rolling up to the McPherson county law enforcement center. Finding our way in we strolled to the basement and found a group forming. The meeting was the usual ham type meeting, discussing various topics like repeater problems, and events coming up. But before long the meeting was adjoined. And I found myself hustling to keep up with the boys as they scurried up the stairs to the parking lot.
“Hey what’s the hurry I asked?”
“We have to set up the antenna,” Adam said.
So we rushed to Zack’s car to prepare for the show down of showdowns.
“Grab the duct tape,” Zack ordered, as he placed the 4-pronged antenna on his car roof. Wires and little cardboard boxes dangled off Zack’s car roof and cascaded into the open window to a box with two meters on it and then to his mobile 2 meter or something like that. Adam walked around the outside of the car with a 2-meter HT keying it up and yelling now, while Zack fiddled with the antenna. Checking inside the car every so often to see if the meters had swung.
“What are we doing now,” I asked trying desperately to feel included in the activity. Adam gave me that look again.
“Ok I think we’re ready,” Zack said in that way only Zack could say again.
We went over toward a group that was forming in the parking lot. A gentleman spoke, “I will be the rabbit,” he said. “I will broadcast for 15 seconds every 5 minutes you’ll hear me on 147.52. Everyone tune their radio’s now and I’ll give my call so you can check out your equipment.” “When I get set,” he said, “I’ll give my call and say ready, ready, ready, then you can start.”
He jumped into his four-wheel drive gray over black Toyota truck. I know this because I thought that if nothing else I’d eagle eye him, so I memorized every detail. He gave his call several times, and before long Zack said “I think we’re ready.”
We headed north even though the Toyota headed east.
“Hmmm,” I thought, “maybe I should say something, Nah they know what they’re doing.”
We sped out of town out 81 highway, until we came to a fork in the road then we stopped. We waited and waited 5 minutes seemed to take an hour. Then the needles swung, and we started to speed off, or so I thought. Zack started making wide circles in the street. Now let me take a moment to explain something. When I was young the mere sight of a top spinning would make me queasy, I had thought I had grown out of this. Now I was having second thoughts about this adventure. Just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore we darted out of the spin into a southerly direction. I sighed, Adam looked back, clenching my teeth I smiled back at him. Darned if I was going to let them know I was a wimp.
We had just gotten into town when Zack hit the brakes and we waited again. Adam pulled out his 2-meter HT and took off the antenna and turned it on.
“Adam,” I said, “wont that mess up the radio.”
“No dad I won’t key it up I’m just listening, without the antenna we have to be real close to pickup anything.”
“Oh,” I said, silently thinking, hey he didn’t give me that look. Feeling proud of my achievement of not asking a stupid question, I blurted out, “what are we waiting for?”
At that point I got two looks of don’t ask stupid questions.
“Oh yea,” I said, “we’re waiting on the rabbit to signal.”
Just then the radio clicked and the man’s call came over very faintly repeating for 15 seconds. We immediately started doing circles in the intersection. Why are we going in circles, I asked? I’m watching the needles Zack explained, when we swing around the needles will swing in the direction we need to go. But the needles didn’t swing.
“Ah” Zack yelled out what’s wrong. Some how the antenna had been shut off, a guilty look was glanced my way by two pairs of eyes. Zack quickly snapped it back on and we sped off again.
We came to the library parking lot and found another ham waiting there.
“Hey, I said, we must have been going in the right direction.”
We sat and talked to the ham for a while and the radio crackled. We made a wide swing and headed south as the other ham headed north.
“Zack” thought out loud, “maybe we’re 180 degrees off.”
He headed down 2 blocks and turned west. We raced down the street and Zack suddenly hit the brakes and pulled into CJ’s, a little hamburger stand, parking lot. Zack driving down the street had spotted the rabbit in back of the little stand among some shade trees. So much for eagle eye me. Alas we were the second to find him. He broadcast again and a few more hams showed up.
So this is how my first T-hunt went I learned a lot. And am forever in the debt of two young men for letting an old guy hang with them for a Saturday.
A big thanks to Myron Marcotte for his humorous writing!