It’s Spring! Daffodils and forsythia are blooming. And its the season for an annual ham-radio operating event, QRP to the Field. This year, the event’s sponsors opted for a native-American theme: On April 25, operate from a location whose name has a native-American origin. “Piece of cake,” said I. Be it street, park, school, knoll, rock, river, or mountain, here in the Bay State you’d be hard pressed not to find one within a mile or two of any place in the state.
Perusing the possibilities a couple of weeks ago, I came across a reference to Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. It’s known to the US Department of Interior as Lake Chaubunagungamaug (to save ink?). Or, shorter still, Webster Lake.
The spot brought back memories of day trips I and my family took to Norwich, CT, back when my sister lived there. We’d pass the lake heading to and from her top-floor condo in a spiffed up, riverside mill. She long since had moved back to California, and I forgotten about the lake. But when it came time to pick a QRP TTF site, its name leaped from a list of native-American place names in the state.
The most credible translation of that incredibly long name (purportedly the longest place name in the US) goes something like this: Fishing Place at the Boundaries — Neutral Meeting Grounds.
For locals, the more conversational version reads: You fish on your side, I’ll fish on my side, and nobody fish in the middle.
The town of Webster, MA, has set up a well-kept lakefront park, and that’s where I thought I’d spend a quiet day at the radio swapping howdies with other QRP TTF participants. Quiet? Not so much!
Seen from Google Earth and given the time of the year, I thought I would set up, operate, and randomly encounter small numbers of people out to walk dogs, let kids burn off energy, or stroll quietly along the shore. But noooooooooo. Unbeknownst to yours truly, I had picked a day when locals planned a family day at the park to raise money to fight cancer. No one can complain about that goal. But it did present a slightly different view!
What’s that saying? When you’re handed lemon, make lemonade? For sure, the presence of that black mobile BBQ restaurant at the far right was good news. I’d brought some munchies to help get me through the day. But when pulled pork and pulled brisket beckon, the munchies stay in the car for a future outing!
By 9:30 I’d set up my station and was on the air. For the record, I took the image below during my lunch break. I’m not the invisible ham taking a selfie.
Of course, as I begin sending CQ TTFs, the DJ fires up the well-amplified CD player. Where else can you find a playlist that segues smoothly from Black Sabbath’s “Crazy Train” to “The Hokey Pokey” to a techno version of that Bluegrass classic, “Cotton Eyed Joe.”
I shared that to say this: I know of no better way to improved your Morse-code skills than to spend six hours trying to send readable code and read weak signals when the impulses trying to leave your brain en route to your fingers collide with the incoming syncopation of some long-forgotten rock song. But, hey, organists can do it — “tap” their feet up and down the pedals while fingers head in multiple direction on the keyboards. Think of it as training for emergencies when your operating position is surrounded by boisterous, intense activity.
In retrospect, I also should have tried that new set of ear buds I picked up after reading about them on one of the QRP lists to which I subscribe. The buds have foam ear inserts that expand to fill your ear canal to help cut outside noise. I’ve put a set into my radio pack for the next outing!
The nice thing about public settings, of course, is meeting people who see a guy hunched forward twirling a nob and tapping a straight key next to a 30-foot-tall orange pole (“That’s not a fishing pole, is it?”) and want to know what he’s doing.
And did I mention food? Smoked brisket and smoked pork, pulled to death, heaped on an open-face hamburger bun and splashed with barbecue sauce? It went well with Cotton Eye Joe.
As for the reason I came, to play radio, the contacts were sparse. My first contact was with Keith, KB4IRR, in North Carolina. I was his first contact in the event; he was my first contact as well. And Japan was coming in on 15 meters around 10 a.m. (I whiffed on that attempted contact). In the afternoon, I picked up four Summits on the Air stations on 15 meters — three in California and one in New Mexico, the latter being the much sought after WS0TA. One of the California operators was visiting from Germany – Andreas Puttich, W6/DL6AP.
All in all, it was an enjoyable day. Many thanks to Paul Harden, NA5N, for organizing the gig. I can’t wait to see what next year’s theme brings!
Oh yes, how do you pronounce that name? Repeat after him: