Antenna War Zone

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7 NIV)

In High School I studied and earned my 1st Phone Engineering license. It was a grueling day of tests in the Chicago FCC offices but I passed all three sections in by noon and was thrilled to call my father (a radio engineer) and tell him the good news. Shortly after I returned home I acquired a job as an evening/weekend/night transmitter engineer at a local radio station. Money in the bank for all that High School senior year fun! Woo Hoo!

Things went along well and I enjoyed my shifts which were limited due to child labor laws. I adjusted transmitters, tuned antenna systems, made all the necessary legal entries in the station logs and read a lot of books in the quiet of the late shifts.

One aspect of the work was the evening antenna current ratio check. This involved going to the doghouse (the small building at the bottom of an antenna containing the tuning unit and current meter) of all four towers and manually reading the in-line antenna current. From these readings ratios could be determined which would indicate whether the directional pattern was in compliance with the station’s license.

The station’s main building was in a valley and the five towers were on the hill behind the station. You could see the towers from the station but the doghouses were hidden behind the ridge of the hill. So I decided it was a nice evening for a walk and headed around the hill, up the dirt road and over to tower number one. One is always a good place to start.

As I was turning the corner toward tower one I notice a vehicle out near tower five and some young folks standing around the open doors. This was private properly, posted and so their presence was unexpected.

slide38I casually walked to the tower one doghouse, unlocked the door and stepped inside. I pulled the meter switch and noted the reading on my log then returned the switch to its neutral position. It was then I heard the ping and the light bulb outside the door went dark.

I glanced outside the door and the light bulb was in pieces on the ground. Then I heard another ping as something hit the side of the building. I quickly turned off the internal light, not wanting to be a target outlined in the doorway, and scrunched down behind the door. These clowns were actually shooting at the building. Worse yet, they were shooting at me!

Fortunately, there was a local phone in the doghouse which connected to the main building for when we were adjusting the antenna array. I picked up the phone turned the hand crank which rang the studio building. No answer. I tried several times as I heard more projectiles pelting the heavy metal exterior of the doghouse. Apparently the disk jockey was either talking on the air, indisposed or just too oblivious to notice the phone ringing.

Not someone who likes being the target in target practice I weighed my options quickly. I could stay and hope they ran out of ammunition and went away. I could keep ringing the studio hoping the disk jockey would rise from his music induced stupor. I could make a run for it and hope for the best. I was young, energetic, felt I was on top of the world (or at least the hill) and decided foolishly to make a run for it.

I peeked around the door toward the car and the villainous youth and edged out of the building. Being the conscientious fellow I was I even closed the door slower and put the padlock back. I then made a mad dash for the hillside heading for the studio building down below. I didn’t realize how steep the hill was or how tall until I flew over the edge into what seemed like certain ignominious death in the high grass with all the snakes slithering here and there.

I ran, fell, rolled, jumped and scampered down the hill across the parking lot to the back door. Digging for my keys I realized I wasn’t hearing any more shots being fired as I unlocked the door and flew inside on the floor. As I was lying on the cool tile floor, catching my breath, the disk jockey came sauntering around the corner looking at me like I was crazy. I ignored him, jumped up, ran to the desk and called the cops.

About thirty minutes later there was a knock at the back door. It was the police. They came to thank me for calling. Apparently the vehicle had been stolen earlier in the evening and they were able to retrieve the vehicle and arrest the young, armed joy riders. I suppose you could say I did my civic duty for the day but my heart wasn’t in it. As a matter of fact, my heart was till racing hours later when my shift was over and I drove home.

I always thought God provided special angels for children, missionaries and fools. I’ve been all three and that evening I think I was in the latter category. As I was flying down the side of that hill I think I could hear songs of deliverance. It’s nice to know God has my back.

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