Unexpected Lessons in Communication
My dad is on the top of a 40-foot pine tree next to our house, but it’s okay.
No, really. He has emphysema, a bad heart, 40 years’ worth of very hard-living, an unfiltered cigarette addiction, and clearly a lack of trust in others. But he believes he is the only person qualified to install a new CB/short wave antenna at the top of a 40-foot pine tree.
CB radios were big at one time. Once installed, my dad could talk to new friends as far away as New Zealand. He’d sit in his room with a large shortwave radio shouting: “Skip-land, skip-land, skip-land. Come in, skip-land.” Radio waves literally “skipped” off the ionosphere and landed in New Zealand.
Tariff and Covid free.
Several seconds later, you’d hear the reply from the other side of the world: “Go ahead skip land,” but in an unmistakenly cool New Zealand accent.
Not to be confused with cool Australian accents because they're COMPLETELY different!
Anyway, this went on. A small window to the larger world. As a shy teenager, the anonymity of the radio helped me develop confidence I hadn’t known before. Anyone could simply get on the radio and talk with anyone around the world.
Or around the block.
One day after school, my friend and I were talking to anyone who’d listen. A lovely female voice echoed back to us and we spent the next 30 minutes flirting with a girl who, it turned out, sat right across from me in school.
So, my dad finishes his precarious high-wire act to the relief of my mother and all of the other able-bodied men who should have been up there in the first place.
Now, did we really need a high-powered shortwave antenna in Southwest Alabama?
Yes! Yes, we did.
Talking with people down the block or in New Zealand was cool.
As a teenager, with only three TV channels, it was unlikely I’d get a real-life Kiwi accent piped into our house talking specifically to me.
As he eventually weakened from the reduced lung capacity and other illnesses, my dad continued to talk to people all over the world. That is, until September 1979 when Hurricane Frederick uprooted all of our pine trees.
After that, the radio experience stopped.
Well, except for the small shortwave radio in dad's car. But it wasn’t as strong as that antenna on the top of that pine tree, next to the house, above the wisteria vine, which dad installed on a hot summer afternoon so he could talk to people from New Zealand.
“Skip land. Skip land. Skip land. Come in Skip land.”
“G’head Skip land.”