Charlie set out for the college to bring Rose home on Friday afternoon. He was in a quandary as to whether he should share with Rose what he’d learned about the clandestine radio signals. National security might be at stake. He didn’t know. Still, she was the one who brought him the initial alert, the question of its legality. Without her keen perception of what amateur radio should be the station might still be undetected. He’d been on the fence for a week, but by the time he reached the college campus and found a parking space he had decided she should be in the loop. The previous storm had left an abundance of snow. Though the crews had labored tirelessly clearing it there were still windrows of dirty, gritty snow and ice occupying half the parking spaces. He wasn’t sure which one of the three exits she would use, the main entry midway along the side, or the two steel stairways at the end that served as entryways as well as fire escapes. Then he spotted her descending the steps at the west end of her dormitory and went on foot to meet her. She took his breath away. In spite of her multi-layered clothing and bulky overcoat he could still sense the gentle sway of her hips. “I have something to tell you,” he said after she was in the car and had pulled the door shut. “What?” she asked, her face falling. “It’s not bad news,” he assured her, watching the worry lines diminish. Then, without waited for a response he reiterated the signals she had reported and then briefed her on what had occurred since she’d first questioned the legality of the station – the radio compass system he’d fabricated and his heading south after dropping her off the previous Sunday. Her eyes grew larger as he described his experience inside the barn where the clandestine station was hidden. “You could have been shot, even killed,” she blurted as he told her about the radio operator entering the barn with a gun “Well, I stayed pretty quiet,” he assured her “I heard another station respond to his transmission. It was on a different frequency. I would never have known that had I not located the barn.” “So what’s the plan, or should I be asking, I mean this is hush hush stuff, is it not?” “Indeed. Major Holmes, my commanding officer at Iceland, is experienced at locating radio stations. Before being assigned to Iceland, he worked behind enemy lines in France and Italy operating a portable listening post. After writing him a letter, sharing with him what I knew, he insisted we should discuss it in-depth and in person. So I’m inviting you to accompany me to the meeting with the major. “I’d love to go. When is it?” “A week from this coming Saturday morning at 10 o’clock. Please remember that you must tell no one about this. Not a soul. Not Mom. Not Dad, No one. Agreed?” “Yes, absolutely. My lips are sealed.” “It’s important.” “I know,” she said, reassuring him that mum was the word. Charlie had dinner that evening with Rose and her parents, and upon returning home he found the phone ringing. “Hello?” “Charlie?” “Yes?” “This is the Holmes. I’ve switched my schedule and cleared tomorrow for our eyeball. Same time. Same place. Can you make it?” “Absolutely. I’ll be there, sir. I didn’t recognize your voice over the phone.” “Nor I yours.” Charlie called Rose. “Rose, can you go to an early lunch with me tomorrow. There are some people there I’d like you to meet.” He wasn’t sure she picked up the jest of his question. Bertha, the telephone operator, would be listening and her tongue was loose on both ends. Gossip was her middle name. If she suspected anything was afoot she would broadcast it to the world. “Let me see if Dad has any plans.” Charlie heard voices and moments later she returned to the phone and said it was okay. She was free to go along. After a hearty, farm breakfast the two of them set out for Kansas City. Upon reaching the city they turned and headed east on US 50. About twelve miles out Charlie recognized the truck stop and diner in question. The time was shy five minutes of 10 o’clock straight up as they swung into the parking lot and pushed through the heavy glass door. The place was alive with drivers and tourists alike. Overhead, a cloud of bluish cigarette smoke hung like a soiled magic carpet. The floor was littered and the place reeked like an old cigar butt. Across the dining area Major Holmes occupied a corner booth that sat apart from the others. Holmes had not changed. Even though he was now retired, leaving the Army Signal Corp in his wake, he maintained his military appearance, sharply creased trousers, shines shoes, clean-shaven, every hair on his head in place. Charlie was betting he visited his barber every nine days. Taking Rose by the hand they threaded their way through the tables. “Charlie, you haven’t changed a bit. I’ll take that back. You seem more content. I’ll credit that to the company you keep. Who is this beautiful lady?” Holmes asked, rising from his bench and displaying a warmth Charlie had not seen before.” “Major, may I present my best friend, Rose. Rose this is Major Holmes, my old CO.” “He speaks of you often,” said Rose. “Good words, I hope,”he said, smiling. Then his smile faded, “Charlie, need I remind you the subject matter we about to discuss is sensitive. It should be classified as a need-to-know.” “Not to worry, sir. Rose is the individual who first brought this transmission to my attention. She understands the gravity of the situation.” “Okay. I’ll take your word on that,” he said after a slight hesitation, and then with the flick of his hand he indicated they should be seated. After the waiter had taken their orders Charlie began a lengthy explanation of everything he knew about the clandestine station. The major extracted a small notebook from a shirt pocket and began scribbling notes – frequencies, times of transmissions, duration, location, and code speed. “And you tracked down the station using a homebrew receiver and a modified loop antenna?” “Yes sir. I copied what I could recall from a radio compass system I’d seen on a C-54.” “Remarkable. Excellent work, young man. However, the station we have yet to locate could be hundreds of miles from your QTH, or from the college campus. Any error, in your system will increase with distance.” “I’m aware of that, sir, but I don’t know how to improve on what I already have,” said Charlie. “Did you bring a schematic of your receiver?” “Yes sir,” replied Charlie, pulling a hand-drawn schematic from his jacket pocket, unfolding it and spreading it out on the table. “Hmmm. Let me take your system home to my shop and experiment with it. I may be able to make some modifications that will improve the sensitivity. Let’s take a look at the antenna.” Major Holmes paid for their meals and then the three of them filed out into the parking lot. Charlie and Rose stood back while the major tuned in a few stations and then rotated the antenna for the best reception. “I can make some improves here as well,” he said while making a few sketches in his note pad. “I’ll call you in three or four days. After helping him load the equipment into the major’s car, they bid him farewell and then watched him head east on highway US 50. After he was out of sight they headed for home.
Charlie was totally exhausted when he set out for home. Fearing he might fall asleep at the wheel, he stopped when he saw a cafe sign flashing and ordered breakfast. While waiting for his order he noticed that this place had served a different purpose during an earlier era and he asked the heavyset cook/waiter/owner about the green, embossed ceiling.
“It’s copper. You don’t see many of these anymore,” he said. “They say oxidation is what turned it green. This place used to be a firehouse back in the horse and buggy days. The hooks for hanging the harnesses are still in the ceiling,” he explained,” lumbering from the kitchen with Charlie’s ham and eggs and then pointing. Judging from his bulk, he was hauling an extra hundred pounds with him.
“They had to harness up before they could get going. I bet a lot of stuff burned down before they even got underway,” Charlie muttered between bites.
“It’s all they had back in the day. But you’re right. Communications was poor too. Look what happened in Chicago and San Francisco and probably lots more places we never heard about.”
Charlie had a refill on his coffee, then leaned his elbows on the counter, wishing he’d taken a booth instead of perching on a stool. Gazing out the window he saw the snow had stopped and there were signs clearing, hints that sunshine was not far away.
“That was some storm,” Charlie said.
“You’re not from these parts, are you?”
“No, I live across the line in Missouri.”
“Well, we are pretty used to this kind of weather. We prepare for it.”
After refilling his thermos, Charlie bid the cook farewell and pushed out into the crisp morning air. Tightening his tire chains, he got into his car, grateful he’d left the engine idling and the heater fan blowing. The highway wasn’t plowed. Pushing several inches of fresh snow made his progress slow, but he still caught up with the storm. Throttling back, he matched its speed, staying in rear of it, picking up slight flurries. He was anxious to get home, but the slower speed gave him time to think about the clandestine radio stations.
He didn’t have enough information to interest the FBI. Maybe the army? Probably. Then he remembered Major Holmes, his commanding officer at the radio site in Iceland. Serving together for three years resulted an unusual camaraderie between the commanding officer and his enlisted men. It was almost family-like. Consequently, the major had shared his home address with those men working under him. Charlie wondered if he should share what he already knew with the him? He might be a big help. He’d forgotten where Holmes lived. He would have to check his address book when he got home.
Charlie reached Butler in time for lunch He was headed for May’s Cafe for a bite to eat before going to bed. But first he swung by the shop and found Artie, his helper, beneath a farm truck on a creeper.
“How’s things Art?”
[Author’s note: Originally, Rose is written for and published in K9YA Telegraph, Chicago. I set out to make it an eight part series. However, the story took on a life of its own and I emailed Philip, K9PL, my editor, informing him that I needed four more chapters. Well, chapter twenty is nearly finished and will head off to Chicago by mid-January. I think we’re looking at finishing with chapter 24. These are busy people. I have to run to keep up.]
The storm decreased somewhat, allowing Charlie to pick up the pace, but his good fortune didn’t hold. In less than 20 of the 80 miles that lay before him, he encountered a ground blizzard, wind-driven snow, creating a foot-deep cloud blowing across the highway. Distinguishing the edge of the highway was often impossible. He considered turning back, but with the storm quartering him from behind, that probably wouldn’t change anything, so he pressed on at a snail’s pace, rationing his coffee to the last swallow. In spite of his extended time on the road, dawn was still two hours away when he spotted the sign announcing Pomona. After locating his east-west road, he turned right and mentally added five miles to the sum already showing on his odometer. True to the map, he found no structures for several miles. Then, just past the seven mile mark a farmhouse and barn emerged on the south side of the highway. They seemed innocent enough. Could this place be the source of the signals he’d intercepted? Maybe he was wrong. Maybe his being here on this blustery, wintry night was nothing more than the product of an overactive imagination. Who would this person be talking with? Would he be making contact with a U-boat? How far away would one be – four hundred miles, submerged in the Mississippi? A thousand miles in the Gulf? What could this Kansas prairie dweller know that would be of interest? This whole scheme was crazy. He was crazy and tired. Beyond tired. He was exhausted. Common sense told him to forget this ghost-chasing escapade and go home. But he couldn’t.
The wind was still at gale force, even though the snowfall had decreased to a flurry. A half-mile past the farmhouse he found a pullout, a place where the state may have erected a temporary weigh station for trucks. Pulling off, he shifted the Dodge into neutral and laid his head back to rest his eyes, and to think this situation through.
When he opened his eyes he knew that he had too much time and effort invested in this challenge to not see it through to the end. He had to investigate this farm before dawn and he had to do it now.
Fortunately, he always carried cold weather gear with him. It was an important step for survival he’d learned while in Iceland. Stepping out of the car, he slipped into his insulated coveralls, pulled his winter cap down over his ears, and then donned his heavy leather mittens. After checking his flashlight one last time, he began the half-mile trek back to the farmhouse.
Snow squeaked beneath his boots. The sound worried him, but the wind direction was such that the sound of his approach might be carried away. It probably wouldn’t even rouse a watch dog. Dawn was a half hour closer by the time he entered the driveway. He paused for several minutes listening and watching. Nothing.
There was no logical way he could check the house, not without some planning. The snow reflected enough light he was able to distinguish a large door hanging from an overhead track on the barn. Within the door itself was a smaller entryway. He found it locked with a simple blade that fell into a groove. One of the hinges growled in protest, and he tensed, waiting to see if the sound alerted anyone. Minutes passed. At last, he stepped through and let the door close behind him.
The darkness was absolute. Holding his fingers loosely over the lens of his flashlight, allowed only a limited amount of light to escape. Along the south wall were five horse stalls. Four of them were open and vacant. The fifth was closed. Carefully, he slipped the latch. Inside were a several dozen bales of straw stacked chest high. At first glance that seemed the extent of it. However, on the right side he detected a faint orange glow. A closer investigation revealed a narrow space near the wall. Slipping through, he found himself in a narrow space between two rows of bales. Near the far wall, was a three-tube transmitter with all the ear marks of home-brew. The filaments of a 6L6 provided the glow he’d seen. Near by was a manual T/R switch wired to an end-fed vertical antenna, a length of insulated wire taped to a 4×4 that disappeared into the darkened loft. Hard against the wall was a BC-348 receiver in out-of-the-box condition. Charlie was moving closer in order to read the frequency on the dial when he heard the door hinge. Someone had entered the barn.
He was boxed. There was no place to hide. A lamp came on, illuminating the radio area. The row of straw bales against the back wall were stacked in a haphazard manner. As the sound of heavy boots approached, he squeezed between two bales and then wiggled into a small gap on the back side. With his knees pressed against his ears and his arms wrapped beneath his thighs, he was able to slip from sight. Without a doubt the person wearing the heavy boots suspected something was afoot, because Charlie heard the metallic sound of a firearm was cocked. He held his breath.
Seconds slowly ticked away in silence. Then he heard the person move closer. For an instant he could feel his presence, the heat from his breath. He waited. After a few long minutes the person moved away and the side tone began, and Charlie copied the familiar numbers. The transmission lasted less than a half-minute. Then came a response. In less than two minutes everything had fallen silent. He heard the stall door close and latch drop in place and then the sound of heavy boots moving away. The light went out. Without a doubt the outer door would be latched as well.
In spite of his urge to remove himself from the situation Charlie checked the receiver frequency and found it nine kilocycles above that of the transmitter.
Using the blade of his pocket knife, he flipped the latch on the stall door. Once he was out of the stall he quickly made his way to the exit and eased the door open. To his relief the heavy snowfall had returned. He crossed the barn lot and then headed for his car. He was chilled through by the time he reached the Dodge and cleared snow from the hood and windshield. He was at a loss as to whom he should report his discover, the FBI or the Army Signal Corps? He was still pondering that question as he began his journey to Butler.
Charlie saw Rose off to Lawrence Sunday evening. After their final QSO he began fabricating a home-brew radio compass system. Constructing a second wire antenna to null the back side of the loop, he copied the bird-dog antenna he’d seen on C-47 and C-54 aircraft. After tuning it to mid-band, forty-meters, he secured it to the luggage rack on his car. A hand crank and a speedometer cable and housing enabled him to rotate the loop from inside the car. In his experience, most clandestine stations changed frequencies after each transmission. But for reasons he had yet to learn, this operator seemed to rely more on an erratic schedules and short transmission durations. He could only guess why the rig was rock-bound. The next time he heard it he would plot the direction it came from on a road map, courtesy of Skelly Oil Company.
Photo source: Boeing on the Internet
But the radio operator didn’t oblige Charlie now that he was prepared. Hour after hour, day after day he repaired vehicles in his shop, keeping an ear tuned for the numbers man.
Then one Friday evening he got his break. The numbers man came on frequency while Charlie was headed to the farm to await Rose’s arrival. The highway offered no shoulder. He had to rotate his loop antenna crank with one hand, while driving with the other. By the time he found a place to park the station was silent. He could determine only that it came from west of Butler, about 270 degrees magnetic, give or take. Checking his map he found that encompassed half of Kansas. He had no idea what the tolerance of his home-brew radio compass might be, but he drew his line on the Skelly map, extending it across Kansas to the Colorado border anyway. Then he continued on his way to meet Rose.
“Have you checked the weather forecast?” ask Virgil as Charlie reached the front door.
“No, but I noticed it’s getting colder.”
“It is. The weather guesser at a Kansas City radio station reports an arctic front is pushing down from Canada that will create low overnight temperatures and snow.”
“What about Rose? Has she called?” asked Charlie.
“No she hasn’t, and I’m worried. Kansas doesn’t always plow their highways. She could be off in a ditch somewhere.”
They both fell silent, each pondering what the next few hours might bring.
“Maybe Rose should have stayed at the college?”
“Yes, I wish she had,” said Virgil, glancing toward Anne who was nodding in agreement. “It’s already snowing,” he added.
“If she isn’t home by dusk I’ll call her on the radio,” Charlie said, then breaking off….”There she comes now,” and he headed out the door.
“How’s the road?”
“Much worse in Kansas. Drifting snow. Ice,” she said as she pushed the door open.
“We were worried about you,” he said, reaching for her gloved hand.
“Thanks. It’s pretty slick.”
“No doubt. Do you think the college will hold classes Monday morning?”
“I think so. There are lots of people living in the dorms who won’t have any trouble getting to class. Besides, they are used to dealing with foul weather,” she said, leading the way into the living room and sidling up to the Warm Morning stove. Shucking her gloves, she held her hands over the top. “I’ve missed this wood stove,” she added. “My dorm has a stream radiator beneath the window that is forever knocking and banging. My roommate leaves the window open about a half-inch to circulate heat throughout the room.”
Virgil smiled as though her words brought back memories of his youth.
“Your timing is outstanding,” said Anne, directing her statement toward Rose. “Food is ready.”
Everyone fell silent as they took their places and began passing bowls of food.
“I think I’ll drive Rose back to school Sunday afternoon,” announced Charlie. “I have a good set of tire chains.”
“You can’t make the round trip in one evening in this weather. I hope there will be room at the hotel?” said Anne.
“I’ll stay at the YMCA and drive back Monday.”
He didn’t share with them that this might give him an opportunity to copy that clandestine station from Lawrence and maybe get a triangulation on his station.
Charlie and Rose set out for the university. Conditions were bad and quickly grew worse. The wind was up and a ground blizzard was in full swing by the time they crossed into Kansas. The Dodge heater wasn’t doing well. Frigid wind blew right through the door seals like they weren’t there. He wasn’t surprised. That’s why he’d brought a heavy crazy quilt to cover their laps.
“This is beautiful. Where did you get it?”
“My mother made it when I was a small boy. I found it in Dad’s closet. First time I’ve seen it since before I was drafted.”
“It’s beautiful. I already said that, but it is. Your mom was a gifted lady.”
“Yes, she was. She was a special person. I miss her.”
Snow fall increased dramatically and the vacuum-actuated windshield wipers were not keeping up. He slowed their pace. Therefore, the hour was late when they reached the college campus. They decided to eat at the Student Union and afterward she headed for her dorm.
Charlie had monitored the radio frequency since they’d left home, but heard nothing from his numbers man. Maybe he’d transmitted while they were eating, or perhaps his schedule had changed. There was no way he could know.
The YMCA was booked. They turned him away, but provided directions to a nearby hotel. He found the hotel quickly and as he reached for the ignition the clandestine station began transmitting. Swinging his loop antenna around, he located the strongest signal and then copied 2221 4216 8887 8312. The numbers were different except the last four digits – 8312. Was 8312 a signature? He didn’t know. Unfolding his Skelly map and laying it across the seat, he drew a line from Lawrence at a bearing of about 195 degrees. His new line crossed the one he’d drawn from Butler a short distance west of Pomona, Kansas. He was guessing five miles, a rural area.
Against his better judgement, he drove to a nearby cafe to fill his thermos with fresh coffee and waited for the cook to make him a to-go ham and cheese sandwich. After checking his flashlight and topping off the gas tank he set out for Pomona.
Photo source: Internet
Rose’s father sat down before a huge a platter of ham, eggs, and steaming biscuits. The kitchen was filled with the rich sent scents Rose known all her life. But these giant farm breakfasts were certainly not old hat with Charlie. His mouth was watering. He watched Virgil glance away from the turkey platter and smile as Rose and then Megan. He didn’t know Virgil well enough to guess what he was thinking, but he assumed the smile was a sign of good things to come. Rose returned his smile, but she waited for him to break the silence. With a practiced hand, he added fresh cream to his coffee and then spent too much time stirring it in before raising the cup to his lips and tasting it.
“We’re going to take another run at this college thing, but with some stricter rules,” he finally said, his eyes holding Rose’s gaze for the longest half-minute Charlie had ever experienced.
“Okay. Whatever you think is best, Daddy,” she replied.
“I don’t have much cash on hand, this being Sunday. So I called our banker, at his home this morning. He confirmed that there is a branch in Lawrence, so first thing tomorrow morning your mother and I will open an account for you. You will have free access to the funds therein, but I don’t want you carrying more than $20. Are we in agreement on that?”
“Yes, Daddy, but what about the $200 that was stolen?”
“It’s gone Rose. The money is gone.”
“Couldn’t your attorney help?”
“Yes, I could have John look into it, but in the end he wouldn’t be able to recover the money either. It’s gone. It would just cost more money to learn what we already know.”
“I’m sorry, Daddy,” she replied.
“That’s history. We’ve learned a valuable lesson from that. I’ll give you enough cash for gas and eats, enough to get you by. You and Megan will be free to head back to Lawrence when you’re ready.”
“What about those strange numbers I heard on the ham radio before I left campus yesterday? Do you know anymore about them?” asked Rose, turning her attention to Charlie.
“No, I didn’t learn anymore. It might have been a natural phenomenon. Propagation starts changing this time of year. Daytime bands grow weaker, and the nighttime bands grow stronger. Sometimes they switch back and forth several times. It’s my guess what you heard was bits of a traffic net. Propagation flipped and you may have heard a house number.”
“Oh, okay,” Rose said. She was certain she’d heard more than one number group, but maybe she was mistaken.
Later that afternoon Rose and Megan set out for college. Charlie returned to the shop, powered up his radio station, and listened for the signal Rose had reported. He knew he was probably chasing a ghost, but the days of World War II still haunted him.
He remembered the tough conditions they worked under in Iceland – snow pellets striking the antennas generated their own noise. Then there were atmospheric conditions creating still more interference, sometimes creating an echoes and screeches. As if that wasn’t enough, the Nazis had their jamming machines running. He’d heard signals of every description while stationed in Iceland. Hearing numbers was nothing new to him.
Other than having a daily QSO with Rose his week was routine – transmissions, engines, brakes. No matter what the job, he kept his station on and the receiver gain loud enough that he could hear it anywhere in the shop.
Thursday afternoon while he was removing a transmission from a Chevrolet pickup Charlie heard Rose’s 8312, plus more. Fortunately, he always kept a pad in his shirt pocket. He copied 1321 4895 2715 8312 at about 20 words per minute. As suddenly as it began, it was over. There was no call sign at the beginning or the end, no identification of any kind. The last four numbers were the same as Rose had scribbled on the sheet of paper she’d given him – 8312. Strange. If it had been United States military transmitting there should have been a call sign preceding the numbers. If it was amateur a call sign should have followed the 8312. If this was a clandestine station and not some bootlegger, the 8312 might be a signature or defining a location. He had no direction finding equipment, so there was no way of knowing the direction from which the numbers came.
During those years he served in Iceland he retransmitted thousands of messages similar to this, numbers that seemingly had no value. They were coded messages embedded in Morse. It was not his job to decode them. However, during slack times when conditions made radio communications impossible he sometimes cracked a few simple messages only to discover they were weather reports. Now he wondered if that was what they really were.
The weekend rolled around and late Friday evening Rose called Charlie on the radio, telling him she was headed home.
The following day, Saturday, they worked a NTS booth at the Lord’s Acre Sale in Hume. It brought memories into focus. He recalled the first time he’d seen her reflection in the meter glass at the county fair. She was still the prettiest girl he’d ever laid eyes on.
The rest of the weekend they stayed on the farm. But he was still pondered the numbers he’d intercepted earlier in the week.
Rose set out for college two days before classes began. She’d been sure of herself until this morning, Saturday, when it is time to leave. Now she has butterflies, and premature homesickness. Charlie doesn’t feel any better about her leaving, but he knows it’s not his place to say anything. Acting as a bell boy, he follows her in order to carry her bags to her room. At least that’s the official reason for accompanying her. But in reality he wants to make a show of force, as it were, confirming to the studs hanging around campus that Rose is already spoken for. ”This campus is larger than I realized,” Rose said after they park as close to the dorm as possible. Charlie wrestles her bags to the stairway attached to the west end of her dormitory, the one mentioned in her orientation letter stating her room is located on the third floor. Rose leads the way up while Charlie struggles with her bags. As they reach the landing the entry door swings open. ”What is your name?” asked a burley, middle-aged woman with a clipboard. ”Rose Hardacre.” ”Oh yes. You’re assigned to room 312, halfway down the hall on the right. This is far as you can go, sir,” says Burley.”
“MAN AT THE DOOR,” she shouts down the hallway. Instantly, doors slam like couplers on a train leaving the station. ”I’ll have the radio on, Rose,” Charlie says leaning forward to kiss her on the lips. “I’m going to miss you,” he adds, turning, making his way down the steps to head for home. He knows it’s going to be a long, lonesome trip. * * * Her room is papered with a delicate flower pattern. A gray carpet covers the floor wall-to-wall. The two beds are against opposite walls. Two identical chests of drawers are built into the wall, as well as two closets.
Rose’s roommate, Megan, is a shy brunette from Kansas City. This is Megan’s first time away from home and she’s nervous, in spite of the fact she is a big city girl. She’s hardly five feet tall with thick, black hair and dark eyes. Rose is positive Megan drives the boys insane. ”Have you explored the campus?” Rose asks after they are acquainted. ”No, I just arrived here an hour ago myself. I wish I knew where we could get something to eat. I’m starved”. The housemother raps on the door frame before entering their room, then gives them verbal directions to the student union where food is always available until midnight. ”Maybe we should put our things away before we leave?” suggests Megan, her hands on her hips while she considers where everything should go. ”I don’t know that it matters, not yet, anyway,” says Rose, adding, “we have all night and tomorrow to do that. Besides I think better on a full stomach. We need to hide our money, though.” Virgil has given Rose nearly $200 to cover the first semester’s tuition, cost of books, various additional fees, and some extra for what he calls walk around money. She drops her wallet in an empty drawer. Then they set out in search of the student union. The student union was a large dining room with a cafeteria on one side. Several dozen tables and chairs fill the area all the way to the far wall. Half the tables are occupied. Rose finds it easy to identify the returning students by the casual way they act, their offhand reunions, and laughter. They eat their fill. An hour later they return to find their room door ajar and their belongings in a jumble. Rose’s heart is in her throat as she races to the drawer where she left her wallet. ”It’s gone! My wallet is gone!” shouts Rose, her eyes glued to the empty drawer. ”What?” screeched Megan. ” My entire $200 is gone.” ”Oh no! Didn’t you lock the door?” ”I thought you did,” said Rose. Megan shakes her head slowly side to side. “I’m so so sorry. Whatever will you do?” she asks. ”I don’t know,” moans Rose. “How will ever I tell Dad I lost that money?” She says half to herself. ”Tell the truth. Tell him how it happened. If your dad is anything like mine he’ll see through any fib you try to tell him,” suggests Megan. Rose nods in agreement. “I guess l have no other choice but to go back home and see if Dad will give me a second chance. Do you want to go with me?”
“How far away is it?”
“A couple hours. We can spend the night there.”
“What if your dad won’t give you a second chance?”
“I think he will. I hope he will. But if he doesn’t I’ll still bring you back to campus tomorrow.” They stow their belongings in their closets and drawers, bringing some order to the room before leaving. It was nearly dark before they descend the outside stairway and head for Rose’s Ford.
Rose and Charlie were seeing each other on a regular basis, during the last few weeks of high school. Many of their dates were spent in the radio shack, while she’d learned Morse code.
“I think I want to earn my ham license,” she announced one evening. “Can you help me?”
“You bet. Right now let’s shoot for a class B ticket.”
“Well, ticket, license. The two terms are interchangeable. The testing schedule is once every quarter. I’ll have to check, but I think the next testing session is in September. That will give us plenty of time to prepare you for it and you can test before going off to college.”
For about fifteen minutes each evening she studied theory and code,
“You’re still in the learning mode from high school. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll be ready for your test.
They worked day after day, week after week. Finally, test day arrived. With Virgil’s permission, Charlie drove Rose to the FCC field office in Kansas City. She was nervous about the test, especially the code sending portion. He brought along the J-38 key she’d been practicing with, in hopes that the engineer would allow her to use it.
The engineer allowed it, and after an hour she had earned her Class B amateur radio license, giving her CW privileges on 40-meters. Three weeks later, she received a copy of her license which she framed and hung in Charlie’s ham shack.
But Charlie had plans. He hadn’t waited for the paper license to arrive. He was already building a forty-meter mobile transmitter with a rotor-selector providing three crystal-controlled frequencies. The power output was about twenty-Watts. The receiver was a transverter making the car radio capable of receiving forty-meter frequencies. The antenna was a bottom loaded vertical, permanently tuned to cover that small portion of forty. Everything worked off the six-Volt system. She just needed to have the motor running.
With the mobile station ready, he took her Ford coupe into the shop one evening and by midnight it was installed.
The family farm was west of Butler, about two miles from the Kansas line, far enough for a good radio test. Virgil and Anne were impressed. Rose was ecstatic.
The following week Rose packed her clothes and headed for Lawrence, Kansas to enroll at the University of Kansas and major in Geopolitics.
Every evening at 2000 hours local time they met on one of those three frequencies and chatted, in CW, of course, for ten or fifteen minutes. When they were finished they each signed with 88.
There was a future with these two and they both knew it.
The colors and the imaginative designs featured on some of Charlie’s QSL cards fascinated Rose. Many were the products of print shops, while others were definitely the creations of skilled hands and gifted artists. In addition, many of the countries represented in these QSLs were from countries she’d always believed were backward, perhaps incapable of such creations.
By the time Charlie had finished the pickup she had one card she wanted more detail about.
“This one,” she said, passing a card to him that pictured a radio sitting on a grass mat in what appeared to be a third world country. “Is this for real?”
“Yes, I remember this one. He and I have QSOed several times. He’s a civil engineer. He earned his degree in the United States. His countrymen financed his education. He has returned to his homeland to help engineer roads, bridges, and buildings.”
“How interesting,” she remarked, studying the card again. “I should go home. My folks will be worried about me.”
“You haven’t had lunch, have you?” he asked.
“No, I’ll eat at home.”
“May I take you to lunch at May’s?”
“I don’t know if my father would approve. You and I haven’t known each other very long, you know.”
“There’s a phone on the wall. Call them,” he suggested.
She was hesitant. He wondered if that hesitation was because she didn’t want to have lunch with him.
“If you’d rather not have lunch, I understand.”
She went to the phone and Charlie stepped outside so she could talk privately.
“Mother said it would be okay,” she said, joining him on the sidewalk.
“And your father, how does he feel?”
“Well, he’s a little over protective. I’m his little girl, you know. But Mother said it would be okay.”
“Artie, I’ll be at May’s if something comes up.” Charlie shouted across the shop.
Virgil didn’t mend any fences, nor did he fix the flat tire on the wheat drill after returning home. Instead, he headed for his favorite chair which gave him a view of the lane leading to he house as well as the kitchen clock.
Anne knew his was stressed, but she offered no comfort. Instead, she brewed a pot of coffee.
Then the phone rang.
Virgil heard enough of the conversation to know that Anne was consenting to her having lunch with that guy running the shop. He thought she must be out of her head. But he held his tongue. He knew he was over protective. It was tough turning loose. Even worse, he knew the day was coming when all this would be beyond his control. His stomach turned at the thought..
At last, the pickup came into view. As badly as he wanted rush out to meet his daughter in the drive with a thousand questions, he kept his seat and waited.
“How does the pickup run?” he asked as she entered the living room.
“It runs good, Daddy, better than it ever has since I started driving. And the clutch doesn’t chatter,” she replied, dropping her purse on the sofa and then taking a seat across the room from him, waiting for the questions. She saw him glance at her mother and then noticed the stern set of her mouth. She knew he’d been warned to keep his trap shut.
“Did you learn some geography, Rose?”
“Yes,” she said, describing the array of artwork and photos she’d seen. “I’ll never look at overseas countries the same way again.”
My Rose series that’s currently appearing in K9YA Telegraph is still coming along. During these months in which Barb was ill I had some brief moments when my creative juices flowed and I was able to complete A few chapters up to and including 14. That keeps me in good standing through September 2016 – one chapter published each month.
My thumbnail outline indicated that the series would wind up in October. But Charlie and Rose, my protagonists, think otherwise. They want at least two more chapters (they have taken on a life of their own).
So, back to the keyboard I go.
Charlie found Rose an intriguing young woman. She was as fresh as a spring morning. Her interest in amateur radio was questionable, except for the geography the QSLs offered.
He was older than Rose. He wasn’t sure how her father felt about that age difference, but he suspected his asking for a date would not be well received, not yet anyway. He would have use caution.
College was her immediate future. Rose’s father had found a black 1940 Ford Coupe and brought it to Charlie’s shop for inspection. After it was deemed a sound automobile he bought it for her, calling it her college car.
# # #
Autumn gave way to winter. During those few months he’d managed to take Rose to three movies at the Fisk Theater on the Butler Square. In a slight way, her perfume caused Charlie to recall letters he received from a Colorado girl he’d met while in radio school. It was a long ways from Denver to his duty station in Iceland and the faint fragrance of civilization was always welcome. The letters continued for a few months, and then the space between them gradually expanded until they stopped altogether. There had been nothing between them, so it didn’t really matter. He wished her well.
Rose, however, was different. She was someone with whom he could build a future.
One cold and snowy morning, hours before daylight, the telephone brought Charlie out of a sound sleep. The caller was a long haul trucker at a payphone north of town on US 71. One of the wheels on the drive axle had sheered the lug nuts and dropped his truck onto the highway. His load was fresh produce that could freeze if he didn’t reach Kansas City by morning. Charlie wasn’t equipped for heavy work, and road service was beyond his capability. However, he got dressed and drove out to see if there was something he could do.
The driver had already set out his flares and had retrieved his wheel and tire from an adjacent field. If the truck had not been blocking the northbound lane, Charlie would have turned down the job. But it was a potential disaster. Returning to the shop he loaded tools, jacks, blocks, and in his father’s inventory, he found the correct stud bolts and nuts for the job.
It was difficult, working by lantern light. Lying on his back in the snow had soaked him to the skin. By the time the trucker was ready to roll, Charlie was wet and chilled through.
Later that morning he developed a nasty cough. Artie took over the shop while he went to see his doctor. He was going into pneumonia, his doctor said, and admitted him to the hospital.
Fortunately, the pneumonia was caught in the early stages, and he was quickly on the mend. After he was no longer contagious Rose drove to school each day and then came by the hospital to check on him. During her third visit he suggested they step outside of some fresh air.
“You can do that?” she asked.
“Of course, they don’t care. Wait for me while I get my clothes.”
Minutes later they were in the elevator and headed for the lobby. The snow had been cleared from the sidewalk. Though a frigid wind blew from the northwest, they strolled around the parameter of the hospital grounds for a quarter-hour. When it was time for Rose to head home Charlie returned to the hospital. As he stepped into the lobby a lady at the main desk ask if there was anything she could do for him.
“Are you here to visit someone?”
“No, it’s just pretty cold outside and I though I might step in here to warm up,” Charlie replied.
She nodded and returned to her duties. All was quiet until the day-nurse assigned to Charlie floor stepped from the elevator.
“What are you doing out of bed?” she growled.
“You’re Charlie McAntire, aren’t you?” asked the lady at the desk.
“Yes, I am.”
“Come with me, Mr. McAntire,” the nurse demanded, taking Charlie by the arm and heading for the elevator.