Clarence had served in the Marine Corps during the Korean Conflict. He’d operated a mobile communications post. Each time the Marines fired heavy artillery he positioned his jeep so he could view the impact. If they were off target he radioed they by means of a portable radio using Morse code giving them instructions of what adjustments should be made. However, North Korean forces were monitoring this signal from at least two locations. Doing so enabled them to plot his position and send a volley his way. So it was imperative that once his instructions were sent that he change locations as quickly as possible. Any number of times his departure was delayed and for each occasion he could, if he so chose, relate horror story.
He would be hard pressed to recall the number of times a member of the local amateur radio club, having learned he’d served as a CW operator in the military, invited him to a class where he might earn his radio license.
“I appreciate the heads up, but I’ve had enough CW QSOs to last a lifetime,” he’d reply, knowing they didn’t understand. Only those who had been there and done that could understand that recalling his violent past brought him no satisfaction.
However, his son-in-law, Ted, had recently passed the test for earning his technician ticket. Clarence asked if he was studying his code.
“Of course not, Dad. You of all people should realize that code is dead.
Clarence kept his mouth shut, but in his opinion a no code ham was nothing more than an out-of-control CB operator, a half-baked ham. He could only hope that Ted would eventually come to realize that.
Clarence, in his mid-seventies, was probably too old for backpacking. But when Ted asked him if he’d like to do an overnighter at Horse Lake in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area he didn’t hesitate to accept. So when Ted’s vacation time arrived the two of them loaded backpacks.
“You got everything?” asked Clarence as they hauled their packs to the front door and set them down for one final inventory.
“Yes. Food, tent, sleeping bags, cooking gear, lantern…as he went down the list. I even have my two-meter radio and two sets of extra batteries,” Ted assured him.
They left the house at five o’clock and drove into Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. It was nearly eight o’clock by the time they reached the parking lot. Horse Lake, located ten miles further on foot, offered absolute quiet and superb trout fishing. But the trek was a difficult trip. Including the time spent resting five more hours were gone by the time they reached Horse Lake.
Night arrives quickly in the deep forest and during the period of a new moon the darkness is absolute. Knowing this, they erected the tent and made camp before they went fishing. Good fortune was on their side. A hatch of small flies were hovering inches above the lake surface and the feeding frenzy was on. My dusk they had caught enough trout for their supper and then dined by lantern light.
Ted didn’t know what time it was when he was awakened by someone calling his name. Shaking the sleep from his eyes, he waited to see if it was a dream.
“Ted,” came the voice again. It was Clarence.
“Yeah! What’s up Dad? Where are you?”
“I’m outside. I fell. I need your help.”
“Do you have the flashlight?” asked Ted after he’d felt his hands around the tent floor.
Ted began a frantic search, wishing they’d declared a place to stow the light. Then his hand bumped it. “I found the flashlight, Dad. I’ll be there in a second.” When he got outside he found Clarence on the ground a few yards away from the tent. He’d gotten up in the night to relieve himself. Unable to find the light, he left without it.
He was barefoot and in his skivies. No shirt.
“I must have stepped into hole,” Clarence said through clenched teeth. My leg hurts like hell. I hope I haven’t broken it.”
That was when Ted saw that his right leg was bent at an unnatural angle. It was either broken or dislocated. In either case Clarence wouldn’t be walking out of here. And when he revealed the situation Clarence said nothing. Instead, he laid back and closed his eyes. Ted couldn’t tell if he was going into shock, but just incase, he retrieved a sleeping bag from the tent and covered him. Then he returned to the tent for his radio.
He was able to raise one person, but the response was so broken he couldn’t copy a single word. On the chance the other ham had better reception he transmitted everything he knew – location, names, injuries. when he released the push-to-talk switch the other ham transmitted for several seconds. Then he heard the QSL QSL QSL
The night passed slowly and the chill of the high-mountain air penetrated Ted’s clothing. Clarence had slipped into shock – at least that’s what Ted hoped it was. He welcomed the then, gray light that began showing in the east. He made coffee, knowing Clarence would have enjoyed a cup with him had circumstances been different.
The sun was showing itself as Ted hear the sound of an approaching helicopter. He waved his arms and shouted. Then he remembered his handheld radio. Tuning it a the national simplex frequency he transmitted his call sign.
AFFIRMATIVE WE HAVE YOU. AFTER WE FIND A PLACE TO SET THIS DOWN WE WILL BE BACK WITH A LITTER.
Roger that. Standing by,” replied Ted and then packed up their things for the trip home.
Within a quarter-hour he spotted the search and rescue team advancing on the Horse Lake Trail.
After seeing to his immediate medical needs, everyone headed back toward the helicopter.
Ted gave search and rescue Clarence’s phone number and The folks at home were not going to be pleased to hear how the fishing trip went.