Why I earned a ham radio license


by Lew Hatfield, N7YWH During the winter of 1992, I was climbing with a group of five hikers in Tanque Verde Canyon near Tucson when our friend, Bob Reinhold, slipped from a huge rock. I was watching him from the side and saw him spin out of control and land on his head. When I heard his skull strike the rock surface with a hollow thud, I thought I had seen and heard my friend’s demise. I rushed over and got him into a sitting position. When he raised his head, to my horror, I saw that his hair had been severed from the left side of his scalp and was hanging limply over his ear on the other side of his head. My first-aid skills were meager, but it occurred to me that perhaps I should staunch the flow of blood and restore the original position of his hair. Then my companions and I searched our packs for anything we could find to stop the welling of blood from the top of his head. One of my friends donated a woolen cap to hold down the hasty bandage. In the narrow confines of the canyon, our cell phones were useless. One member of the group, Sylvester O’Farrell, pulled a device out of his pack that had dimensions slightly larger than a pack of cigarettes and told us it was a two-meter FM radio. He had to climb a short distance up the ravine wall to get as much signal outreach as possible. In the meantime, we all donated part of our outer clothing to keep poor Bob warm. And Bob kept repeating, “I don’t want to be on the evening TV news! I don’t want to be picked up by a helicopter.” Eventually, two alert volunteers at Rural/Metro Fire Station heard and responded to Sylvester’s radio call for help. It took them almost 1-1/2 hours to clamber to our location. Although Bob never had to be picked up by helicopter, he appeared on all major Tucson TV Channels as a team from Pima County Search and Rescue carried him out of Tanque Verde Canyon. After that experience, I decided to earn a “ham” radio operator’s license. Lew is also part of the Wesley Homes Lea Hill ham radio club, which is part of the campus' Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).   

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