The Amateur Amateur: Doughnuts Will Be Served

By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
Contributing Editor
November 24, 2005

Learn what a box of doughnuts will buy.

At a recent hamfest, I ran into an old friend. I'd first met Dave Crowley, N0HMI, years ago when we both belonged to a local police scanner club. Outside of hamfests, we rarely saw much of each other, so I was a little surprised when he asked if I'd like to come to an antenna-raising party the following weekend. I hedged a bit, not really sure what my itinerary was, and asked Dave to send me a reminder by e-mail.

Dave and Brad

Dave (left) and Brad and the pre-assembled mast and antenna.

I wasn't all that sanguine about rushing off to Dave's the following Saturday. A lot of tasks had been piling up, and weekends are about the only time I have to take care of them. There is always too much to do and too little time to do it. I figured I'd send Dave my regrets and spend the next weekend trying to diminish my ever-growing heap of chores.

A short while later I received a brief e-mail message from Dave, giving the date and time of his antenna-raising party and his address. He also mentioned one other thing: Doughnuts would be served.


I started thinking about the huge pile of jobs I had pending. None of them was particularly urgent. I might be able to take an hour or so to help out Dave. He was, after all, an old friend. He had joined my VE team when I'd asked him, so I definitely owed him a favor. Yeah, old Dave was counting on me. I couldn't let him down.

For those of you unfamiliar with antenna-raising parties here's the deal: Antennas, while they look great in catalogs, tend to be nasty, unruly things. They don't like to be handled. They poke and stick you and rip your clothes, vital parts fall off of them, and their centers of gravity are never where you expect them to be. Erecting them is a little like a cattle roundup. You need a gang of guys who are willing to wrestle something from point A to point B against its will.

These events are called parties for a good reason, however, since they tend to be part work and part social gathering. In my case it was mostly a social occasion. I didn't actively avoid the work. It's just that most of it took place while I was chatting with some other volunteer. Take Dick Skow, for example. Dick wasn't a ham and had a lot of questions about antennas and Amateur Radio in general. It was my duty to explain it all to him, right? I couldn't help it if Dave's antenna was moved from the garage to the yard while I wasn't looking.

Nick on ladder

It was while looking up the ladder at Nick that I realized that I should have worn a hard hat.

I don't want to give you the impression that I didn't do any work at all. But Dave is a very meticulous fellow and had planned and prepared everything well in advance. Virtually all of the work required only two or three people, with just one tense moment requiring the efforts of all seven of us. That was when we hoisted the whole assemblage up and held it steady with four guy wires. Cleon Yohe, AF0G, had the dubious honor of working from inside the attic crawl space, while Nick Hisserich ran up a ladder and drilled, bolted, and screwed everything in place. The rest of us held guys and poles and just made sure the whole affair didn't come tumbling down.

It was while I was at the very bottom holding a pole steady that I noticed that Nick's dad, Steve Hisserich, AG0G, had been smart enough to wear a hard hat and eye protection. Gee, I should have thought of that I mused, as Nick, directly above me, bashed away at something with a hammer.

Thankfully, nothing fell, and all the tasks after that were one-man jobs. Nick did all of the ladder work, presumably because he was younger and more agile than the rest of us. Frankly, I think that as a police officer, Nick cringed at the notion of one of us more mature guys going up the ladder and having a mishap. The paperwork would have been endless.

Cast of characters at antannea raising party

Clockwise from top-left: Steve, Brad, Dave, Cleon (in the attic), Nick, and Dick.

Dave started digging around, looking for the top of the ground rod he'd installed earlier. Since this was another one-man job, I took the opportunity to chat with Brad Leonard, KB0BFD. Brad was another old acquaintance from the police scanner club. We talked about the hamfest of the previous weekend. Brad said that hamfests were an opportunity for Amateur Radio operators to take their old junk and go chumming for new stuff. I don't think I'd ever heard it stated more eloquently.

The grounding crew finished up its task, and we all retired for refreshments and a tour of Dave's shack, or more precisely, shack-to-be. We all chimed in with tips on what he should do next. Hams are never short of advice.

Dave thanked us all for our efforts and we all went home, satisfied with a job well done. I suspect that after we left Dave went outside and gazed fondly at his newly erected antenna.

It's amazing what you can get done for the price of a box of doughnuts.

Editor's note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant, Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name -- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related Web page. Readers are invited to contact the author via e-mail, [email protected].

© 2005 American Radio Relay League

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