The Amateur Amateur: Doughnuts are the Best Medicine

By Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H
August 2015

KB0H and N0NJ

Gary, KB0H and Nancy, N0NJ

Back in June I wrote about my fears that I would not be in very good shape when Field Day rolled around (see Preparing for Field Day). Well, I survived, thanks to help from a lot of people and a box of doughnuts.

To give a quick summary, I have a few medical issues and I let myself get out of shape. I worked on the latter by riding an exercise bicycle and hoisting dumbbells, but the former was a bit beyond my control. And let me be clear, by "medical issues" I don't mean the conditions I suffer, I mean the blasted medications I take for them. There are always side effects.

Anyway, I was most worried about hoisting and carrying all of the gear I needed and getting it all set up for Field Day. The last time I did something like that it really took the wind out of my sails.

I needn't have worried this year. Having discussed it at length with my health and safety officer (my wife Nancy, N0NJ), and having written a column about my concerns, I had a lot of help.

First, Nancy made sure, doubly sure, and triply sure that I took the right meds, didn't take the wrong meds, and had something to eat before I left. Now, eating a healthy balanced meal might seem like the way to go, but in my case that would mean my digestive system would demand most of my body's resources for a few hours. If I did that and then started ferrying a ton of equipment around I would get sick pretty fast. No, what I needed was a minimal, but high caloric meal. Doughnuts were ideal. (Okay, I'm not a doctor nor a nutritionist, but I know what works for me. Glazed and jelly, if you please.)

Nancy made the doughnut run. Florissant's Old Town Donuts is somewhat famous for its cuisine and its lack of parking spaces. (Yes, I know I spelled doughnut two different ways, but both are acceptable and I'm old-school. I can't help it if the store uses the new-school spelling.) She came back with not only enough doughnuts to keep me fueled, but also an extra dozen for the setup crew at the St. Louis and Suburban Radio Club Field Day site. Bless her heart. You have to love a woman who'll go to that kind of trouble for you. (And believe me, trying to park at Old Town Donuts is indeed a lot of trouble.)


Charlie, KH2OP working the knots

Nancy wasn't finished. She insisted on helping me unload my SUV at the Field Day site. She couldn't stay, but told me to phone her when I was ready to leave. "Do not load up the SUV yourself," she admonished. "Call me and I'll come and help you."

I arrived at the SLSRC Field Day site and got my first indication that someone had read my column and was concerned about me. Site director Don, KD0JBN not only waved me right up to the pavilion but had me park mere inches away from the table that had been assigned to me. Unloading my SUV was almost as easy as opening the doors and letting everything spill out.

Charlie, KH2OP was Johnny-on-the-spot (well, Charlie-on-the-spot) and helped Nancy and me unload the car. At one point he hefted a rather weighty bag and said, "What do you have in here, gold bars?" "No, just rocks," I replied. Charlie snickered at that. Imagine his surprise when he found out that's exactly what was in the bag. (I used river rocks to keep fliers and other handouts from blowing away.)

Nancy put out the fliers and brochures (and rocks) while Charlie and I struggled to put up the ARES and SKYWARN banners. It wasn't a physically demanding task. The difficulties amounted to (1) figuring out what to do, and (2) tying knots. I opted to do #1 because I am absolutely hopeless at #2. Fortunately Charlie was quite adept in that area.

After making sure that I was all settled in and checking my pulse once or twice, Nancy gave me a kiss and headed for her car.

Several people happily munching on doughnuts waved goodbye to her.

Right. Now it was time to assemble my field station. Everything I needed was on, under, or near the table. All I needed to do was unpack my equipment and get it set up. As this was a digital station I had five main elements to put together: Computer, transceiver, an interface between the two, antenna system, and power. Charlie had already helped me put up my antenna and feed line (with copious amounts of CAUTION tape, of course). Nothing was particularly difficult, it just took a lot of connecting.

You already know that I have a lot of trouble with cables. Not surprisingly my station looked pretty hideous. I really did intend to tie-wrap and Velcro everything, but I was in a hurry to get on the air and put off the task until later. Somehow I never got around to it.

This was the plan.


Cliff, KC0SDV alerted me to the black flakes all over my ears.

In the past the St. Louis and Suburban Radio Club has kindly allowed our ARES group to set up an information table at its Field Day site. We could also run a station as long as it didn't interfere with any of the club's operating stations.

This year our ARES team managed to pull together enough resources to set up its own Field Day site. Nevertheless, we were still invited to man a table at the SLSRC site. We gratefully accepted. It was an additional opportunity to promote ARES. We decided we would also try to send packet messages back and forth between the ARES table at the SLSRC site and the main ARES site.

As this was the first year that ARES had its own Field Day site we knew that there would be problems. I later heard that they did quite well as far as HF contacts, visitors, and publicity goes. In fact Janelle, N0MTI, our ARES public relations person, actually got the mayor of St. Louis to make a proclamation declaring Amateur Radio Weekend.

Packet radio traffic between the two sites, however, never happened. In fact, very little communication of any kind took place between the two sites. They had VHF radio problems at the ARES site and were very busy, and the few times they tried to call me I was tied up talking to visitors.

Ah well, the best laid plans of mice and hams...

At some point during the day Cliff, KC0SDV came up and gazed at me intently.

"You've got black stuff all over your ears," he said, brushing them.

"I do?"

"Yeah. Little black flakes. Were you wearing a headset?"

"Uh, yeah."

"I think you need a new set."

When I returned to my table I picked up my headset and examined the ear padding. Sure enough, it was crumbling.

That's what I get for buying a second-hand headset at a hamfest.

box of doughnuts

Doughnuts: A great medicine and gesture of goodwill

Anyway, it was a nice day all-in-all. I didn't make any contacts. I didn't get anyone to sign up with ARES. But I did have amiable chats with a lot of folks and snared a slice or two of pizza.

SLSRC Field Day events usually have a magnificently catered evening meal and then settle down to hard core radio operations. When the pavilion filled up with delicious smells (and smoke from the barbeque grill) I knew it was time to call Nancy.

Eric, N0UIH and Jeff, KD0ZVI helped me to tear down and bag up my equipment. We were almost done when Nancy arrived. The four of us loaded up my SUV. I said my farewells to the crew and Craig, K4LSU (president of the St. Louis and Suburban Radio Club) thanked us for coming.

I not only survived, I had a good time. I think Field Day brings out camaraderie among hams. After all, it's likely you're going to need a part or a tool that someone else has, or a hand hoisting something. It pays to be friendly.

I guess I did okay this year, as I just got an invitation to return for St. Louis and Suburban's 2016 Field Day event.

Then again, maybe they're hoping that Nancy will return with more doughnuts.

E-mail Gary Ross Hoffman

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