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Blog - The Evolution of HamDom

BLOG NUMBER 18 – The Evolution of Hamdom

This week’s blog was an evolution in and of itself. It started as a conversation between the Elmer and I about how things evolve in your ham life. You start out as a novice ham with an HT radio and a rubber duck antenna and the next thing you know you’ve installed a tower in your back yard.

Naturally, our friend Jack’s name came up in conversation. Jack (KF5WJB) just installed a 65’ antenna at his house, so naturally, he is a pretty good authority on “The Evolution”. He shared his story on the YL NTX net last week and I think it was one of the best topics we’ve ever presented. It’s something almost every ham who’s been around more than six months can relate to, this Evolution of Hamdom.

I noticed something interesting as I was listening to his ham adventures. Through it all, Jack had a network of people there to help him. It’s been a pretty pivotal part of my own ham evolution, as well. What started as a technical hobby to stimulate my brain has turned into so much more.

Asking for help when I need it has always been a bit of a struggle for me, but this particular hobby is full of very supportive people. It makes the asking easier. I’m proud to say that every time I have reached out, my ham brothers and sisters have been there for me. I feel truly blessed.

If you’re a new ham, and you’re not plugged into the ham community, I urge you to get out there and make some face to face contacts with people. Be it a club or a weekly breakfast meeting of local hams, you will find someone there to help and share ideas with you. Equipment will only take you so far and then you’re going to need help. Ask questions! No man (or woman) is an island. It’s a tribal knowledge kind of thing, as Jack points out.

How I Got to Where I Am
Guest Blogger, Jack McMurry (KF5WJB)

It’s always best to start at the beginning.

In 1969 I was a single side band operator with the Civil Air Patrol. My first licensed call sign was KEK-7649 (CAP CB 26.620) on a Johnson Whiteface. This was RADIO # 1.

Fast forward to June 2013 when I heard about “some ham club” while I was at a Citizens Fire Academy meeting. Turns out they met at the same fire station as my academy meeting. I checked into getting my license and found I had just missed the first club testing event in a long time, so I found a testing event in Arlington and got my license.

After I got my Technician ticket, at one of my first MJARS meetings, I noticed quite a few new hams had some tiny little radio called a Baofeng. The first thing that struck me about it was the price -- cheap.

But a lot of folks had them so there was a lot of tribal knowledge and a lot of support on programming, menu use, add-ons etc. so I got the opportunity to start learning this radio with everyone else. This was RADIO #2.

I quickly discovered the limitations of this HT while standing in my front yard holding this thing up in the air, tuning around trying to hit WA5FWC’S repeater in Venus and having just a little bit better than zero success.

Next came a Nagoya antenna which helped -- but not enough. So on to building a J-pole for the Baofeng. Finally (!) I am able to work some of the local club members, but I was still getting a lot of marginal signal reports.

So I start asking around about dual band base/mobile radios and one of the first guys I talked to was Gary Woods, RIP. Did I mention the people in this hobby are unbelievable helpful and supportive? I came to first understand that when Gary drove over from Cleburne to my house in Mansfield just to program my first HT. Anyway, Gary was a Yaesu man. And he said I would be real happy with a Yaesu mobile rig and I could use it in the house also. Naturally, I have a Yaesu FT 8800 for my base and for quite a while I used that J-Pole located in my shack.

Then I added a top rail with the J-pole, then a Tram dual band vertical replaced that J-Pole, then Gary (WA5FWC) brought his Yaesu 990 to a meeting and let me work a guy in Puerto Rico. I was hooked. I had to have a HF rig. And of course it was a Yaesu FT-950. This was RADIO #3.

Then in September, 2013, I upgraded to General.

Gary (WA5FWC) and Dave (N3BUO) walked me through building some inverted V’s hung up in Oak trees by Dave (KF5LKG). Then Jim (KB0DBJ) says, “A Tower is not that big a deal to set up”.

And away we went.

Today I have 65 foot of tower stacked by Jim (KB0DBJ) and David (KD5DK) with the help of a host of others. I built some new inverted V’s and Bill (KF5YIV) welded up a stand-off bracket to hang the new inverted V’s. I moved the dual-band from the top rail to the tower. Then I just had to have a weather station up on the tower (Thanks for the idea, Jim!) so now I’m installing a MeshNet node. A few more radios and pieces of equipment showed up along the way, of course.

When I started this adventure / journey I had never heard that ham radio was such a “big family”. And maybe not all clubs are like ours. But the common thread through all I have shared with you here is the amazing amount of camaraderie, support and just plain help I have received since I started this hobby a few years ago. I still think of Gary Woods every day because that second Yaesu FT 8800 I have in my truck used to be his.