Activation of W4VQS

by Doug Bankston W4IDW


   The activation of W4VQS was interesting to say the least.  On Saturday April 29th, W4VQS hit the airwaves for the first time from deep in the woods of Stafford County Virginia.  The operator was yours truly.  Equipment used was an old car battery and an Heathkit HW8 at 100 milliwatts.  Operating location was about 200 yards behind my home qth in a small wooden shanty originally built as a "fort" for my kids to play in. (Of course I knew when I built it that when they got tired of it, the shanty would be a great place to operate qrp.   :)

   Setup was relatively simple considering the fact that the shanty is in the woods behind my house and completely furnished with a small wooden picnic table, a 40 meter inverted vee and a lawn chair.   Logistics were not an issue so I hiked back into the woods with an HW8, straight key, headphones, pad of paper and pencil neatly stashed in an old pistol case. 

   After arriving at the Shanty, I connected the battery, key and headphones and was on the air in less than 2 minutes. After a qso with a station in New Jersey, a qso was made with our Club Call trustee John, W4IM who was operating from the Mountains of West Virginia.  After the quick exchange with John, a dozen or so fast and furious qso's followed on 40 meters, all at 100 milliwatts.  Well, being the bright individual that I am, I decided that things were going so great on 40, why not stop right in the middle of it all  and   waste some good operating time building an unnecessary antenna for 20 meters!. Off I go back to the house and round up wire, insulators, coax and support rope to construct a 3 element 20 meter wire yagi.


   Construction of the driven element of the yagi was going smooth... There I was with a utility knife in my hands, cutting away at the insulation of the 12 guage insulated wire, enjoying qrp in the great outdoors.  Then WHOA!!!!, what I saw froze me in my tracks..... A HUGE Poisonous 5' plus Copperhead Snake less than 4 feet away from my left foot "sunning" himself.  Now I'm pretty well versed on snakes.  Growing up in the woods of Southern Mississippi provided many opportunities to run across various poisonous snakes, which my brother and I did quite regularly.  We became proficient at not only catching & killing them, but handling them as well.  Unfortunately for me that day, I was not as "quick" as I was in my younger days....(& not as bright either)

   Once I saw the snake, I knew he had to die (I've got 2 kids that frequently play in those woods!).  I grabbed a 4 foot long 2X4 and whacked him on the head.  The snake looked up at me, and without even coiling up basically "launched" himself out at me (guess he didn't like the head shot I gave him!)...I jumped back as he was striking back at me and went and got a bigger board with some really cool looking rusty nails sticking out of the end of it.... After a whack on the head with that one, he slowed down a bit (the nail through his head must have done the trick)... But he wasn't dead yet....  I grabbed a piece of wood and let him wrap himself around the end of it so I could carry him to the house and let my wife and kids see this creature before I ended his miserable existence with the death penalty for trespassing.... Upon arriving at the house, my wife and daughters came outside and took a picture of me holding the snake with my left hand, wrapped around the stick. 

   It was just after the picture was taken that my wife said "hey! there is blood dripping off of your hand!".... A quick inspection of my left palm revealed two blood dripping puncture wounds from the snake. Evidently he bit me when he first launched out at me in the woods and I did not even know it at the time.  The emergency room physician told me later that its not uncommon for someone to be bitten by a snake and not know it.  He said that I was probably so hyped up by hitting the snake and concentrating so intently on him that I did not notice that he got me.. He also said I was very lucky that the Copperhead injected little or no venom in me. The doctor said this was probably due to the wake up call I gave him on the head with the 2X4.

   Well after all that excitement, I returned to the woods determined to operate QRPttf.  I finished construction of the 20 meter wire yagi and hung the 3 elements at less than 10 feet off the ground. WOW!!!, the HW8 put out around 500 milliwatts on 20 meters and I ended up getting several qso's in a relatively short period of time... I had to return home after about 1/2 a dozen 20 meter contacts because I wasn't feeling well due to the snake bite....

  The moral to this story: Don't be stupid like me.....SHOOT THE SNAKE!!!...

Doug, W4IDW