What a beautiful evening! A cool autumn breeze rustled the leaves of the apple tree above me as I turned on my Heathkit HW-8, kindly set up on the picnic table by my son Antonio. The temporary 20m dipole we have strung up right now is only a few feet above the ground (the center-point is right on the picnic table!) so I didn’t really expect much success. And 20 meters was dying — after hearing some greyline propagation from Chile at sunset, I was hard-pressed to hear much of anything.
Pretty soon it was obvious that the stations I could hear couldn’t hear me! Oh well, that’s what happens sometimes when you’re QRP. As my odds of making a contact seemed to be plummeting along with the temperature, I decided to call it a night. But then I heard K6LEN come blasting in on 14.050, calling CQ. I replied, and he came right back! The QSB was a little troublesome at first, but he was a solid 599 and he gave me a 569.
I think we were both a bit surprised when we found out that we were both running QRP! Len was running 5 watts with his Elecraft K1 in Los Angeles, and I was running maybe 2 watts with my HW-8 1,422 miles away. He congratulated me on having an HW-8 (heartwarming, I admit — I built it when I was 14 years old, and I’ve been fond of it these past thirty years), but I should have been the one congratulating him for having such a fine antenna. His 3 element SteppIR, up 55 feet, really did a great job tonight.
Pretty soon I was shivering a bit from the cold, and my CW began to suffer. I apologized for messing up a couple times on my straight key, and Len told me to get inside before I froze to death. As we signed off, Len gave me my first 72. That’s new since my early days on QRP — 73 is the standard way of bidding farewell. It means, “Best regards!” But instead at least some QRP operators today send 72 when they meet each other on the air, in happy recognition that they’re running less power than everybody else (Get it? 72 is less than 73.). Up until now, I’d only read about this new token of camaraderie among the fraternity of QRP operators. I think I like it!
After I packed up and brought my little rig inside, I went back out and picked some of the last okra by moonlight (okay, I used a flashlight too, but the moonlight was pretty). The growing season is winding down; pretty soon the leaves will begin to fall. Maybe next time I work Len, they’ll be crunching beneath my feet!