Mark, W8MP, and I often argue about what’s dumber—his county hunting or my collecting QSL cards from stations whose call signs spell words. It’s one of those arguments that will never be won. When you get right down to it, they’re both pretty dumb.
Well, Wednesday morning, I got a call from my friend, Mark, W8MP. He asked, “Hey, want to do something really dumb tonight?” When I asked what he had in mind, he replied, “Well, one of my county hunter friends, Tim, W8JJ (he’s the guy looking nervous in the black cap below), claims to have confirmed all 3,077 counties. He needs at least two General Class (or higher) hams to check his QSL cards and sign off on his application for the USA-CA award sponsored by CQ magazine. I guarantee that this will be one of the dumbest things that you ever do in ham radio. I also guarantee that it will be a lot of fun.”
With a recommendation like that, how could I refuse? Mark said that he’d also invited Clark, N8CBW, another nut, errrrrr I mean county hunter, and that he was going to prepare dinner for us.
After a fine salmon dinner with some very chewy noodles (that Mark claims his son, KD8EEH insisted that he make), we cleared the table, and Tim got out his box of cards. Mark then explained how we should proceed. I was kind of curious about this, as it’s clearly impossible to check all 3,077 QSOs in a single evening.
Basically, what the two checkers are supposed to do is to check random contacts until they are satisfied that the applicant does indeed have a QSL from all 3,077 counties. To select the contacts, you might choose counties where you lived, or counties that you have visited. I hit on the idea of having Tim produced the confirmations of all 16 counties in Massachusetts. Clark, who is more familiar with which counties are the most difficult to confirm, asked Tim to produce cards from some rare counties in Colorado and Hawaii.
Above all, though, the idea is to give the applicant as much grief as possible during the process.
Mark came up with the idea of calling several county hunters that he had phone numbers for and asking them to verify in their logs some of the QSOs that Tim was claiming. He first phoned Jim, N9JF, and we asked him about a 44 report that he’d given Tim seven years ago. He wasn’t near his logbook, but he said that he did remember that contact and even rattled off the county (Wahkiakum, WA)!
Next, Mark phoned Guff, KS5A, who confirmed a contact, but was off by almost seven minutes. A long discussion ensued regarding the details of how a mobile logs contacts while out driving. In the end, we accepted the seven-minute discrepancy.
Finally, Mark phoned Larry, W0QE, to confirm a few of the MRCs that Tim had from him. (MRCs are records of multiple contacts. Using them instead of QSL cards makes the process of managing all these QSLs a lot easier.) Mark joked that it looked like one of the MRCs had a forged signature. Larry replied that all of his MRCs are stamped.
“Aha,” Clark exclaimed, “this MRC doesn’t have a stamp!”
I don’t know what was going through Tim’s mind at this point, but it probably wasn’t good. Larry then explained that he probably sent out that MRC before he got the stamp. When we confirmed those dates, I think Tim breathed a little easier.
In the end, Clark and I signed off on Tim’s application. And, even though Mark and I joke about how dumb this activity is, it’s really only a joke. In my mind, it’s quite an achievement. It takes a lot of persistence, too. It took Tim nearly ten years to do it.
Another cool thing about the county hunting sub-culture is the camaraderie amongst the county hunters. It’s the nature of the beast that you’ll be contacting many of them multiple times, and it’s inevitable that you’ll make friends with many of them.
As we were leaving, Tim said, “My wife asked me the other day if I could get now get rid of all my radios since I’ve talked to everybody.” She obviously doesn’t understand this ham radio sub-culture. Tim’s only just begun.