A Nice Touch

I wrote this in November 2003 when my call was ZS1AN. Unfortunately Hutch Towner N9HT was killed in a motor vehicle accident on 29 April 2004. I dedicate it to his memory.

I am fortunate to live in, and operate from, the beautiful city of Cape Town, South Africa. Although ZS isn’t exactly rare DX, there are enough operators who still need ZS (especially on CW) that I often attract a mini pileup and can easily “run” 20 or 30 stations in succession.

A couple of days ago I was doing just that after getting home from work on a lovely spring evening. I was operating on 15-meters CW, working mostly European stations but with a few US stations reporting unexpectedly strong signals from my 100 W and dipole. I was working in a condensed QSO format — not just signal reports, I like to swap names at least to make it more personal, but I was trying to keep the rate up so I could work as many of the waiting stations as possible. I quite enjoy this — not all the time, I also have my own country-hunting to do, and also enjoy more relaxed ragchews. But “running” is still enjoyable, despite the occasional idiot who tunes up dead on frequency or can’t stop calling while you’re in the middle of a QSO.

Anyway after 45 minutes or so, having worked about twenty stations, my wife ZR1SC called me. I always like to tell stations waiting to work me if I have to stop operating, so when I had finished my next QSO I sent “XYL CALLING ME FOR DINNER MUST QRT NW 73 ES CUL DE ZS1AN”. Of course several of the waiting stations continued to call me — either because they hadn’t copied my last transmission, or because they were still hoping for a QSO before I shut down. But that wasn’t about to happen — when I say QRT, I mean QRT, gotta keep the discipline you know…

Then I heard “73 DE N9HT”. Just that, no request for a QSO, a simple “thank you and goodbye” from an operator who had clearly been copying me and was polite enough not to continue trying to hustle a QSO. I quickly scanned my last few contacts, saw that I hadn’t worked him yet, and shot off “N9HT 599 BK” and he came back with “599 TU DE N9HT”. That’s all; 10 seconds and we didn’t even exchange names. The next day I received an email from him, thanking me for the contact and saying he needed ZS for his 15-meter DXCC. We agreed to exchange QSLs direct, and I posted mine the same day.

I’ve just finished reading W9KNI’s excellent book “The Complete DXer”, which is full of operating tips for DXers. It is a superb book that I happily recommend to all aspiring DXers. But N9HT taught me a technique that isn’t mentioned in the book. He simply listened, and was polite and friendly. And that was enough to get him the QSO and the QSL he wanted. And leave me with a pleasant memory of the session.

Nice touch OM.

2 Responses to “A Nice Touch”

  1. Quentin Towner Says:

    Thank you for posting this. I’m one of Hutch’s (N9HT) sons. I couldn’t sleep and was looking online for some information about his hobby and found this. It’s touching and very nice of you. Hutch was always very kind and warm to people. It’s nice to see how far his kindness has reached. Thank you again.

  2. Andrew Says:

    You’re most welcome. I’m just sorry I didn’t have the opportunity to get to know him beyond that brief exchange. Thanks for your comment.

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