High Speed Meets His Match

Originally published in the July 1984 C&E.

It was a day or two after spring commencement at the University of Oklahoma when the telephone call came from the great man himself, Q. R. Zedd.

“Come on down to the ranch, boy,” roared A5A in his best pileup voice. “My cousin High Speed, from California, is coming over for some tea with my momma and Tondelayo and me. You might want to record it for the ages.”

Naturally we tore down there, parking’in the late-afternoon shade of one of Zedd’s 500-foot sterba curtains, and ‘on the deck on the shady side of the ranch house we found Zedd, Tondelayo Schwartz, his blonde, nubile, 20-year-old QSL secretary and constant companion, Momma Zedd, and a tall, red-haired young man wearing surfer shorts and thongs who could only be the son of Momma’s sister, High Speed himself. (High Speed recently graduated from OU with a double degree in Electrical Engineering and French Pastry Baking.)

Zedd made the introductions and we all settled down for some Lipton’s Instant on the rocks, which Tondelayo, fetching in a pink bikini and string sandals, served on an old serving tray made out of a discarded mother board from a mainframe computer.

“High Speed, here, was just telling us how great he is,” Zedd told me with the tilt of an eyebrow. He turned back to the young graduate. “Pray continue.”

High Speed crossed tanned legs, tossing his thong on the toe of his right foot, and fired up a Swisher Sweet. “I’m a modest guy,” he told us. “If I keep on talking about some of my accomplishments, it might sound like I was bragging.”

“Oh, do go on,” Zedd encouraged, a dangerous light in his eye. “Us peasants don’t get a lot of excitement.”

“Well, as I was saying,” High Speed smiled, “it isn’t everybody who’s worked Brazil on 75.”

“No, it certainly isn’t,” Zedd agreed.

“Of course I’ve worked just about everything,” High Speed continued, blowing smoke rings. “Us Californians just naturally do better than most. My home there in Big His has a nice antenna location, on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, and it keeps you in good nervous condition, running over to Pebble Beach to knock a few balls up on the green whenever radioing has you frazzled a little.”

High Speed paused and looked at Zedd. “You ever play the game, Uncle Q. R.?”

“DX?” Zedd asked.


“I’ve-tried it once or twice,” Zedd understated.

“I guess you’re not quite as good at it as you are at DXing, then?”

“Well –”

“Because,” High Speed cut in, “after all, you are second-best in the whole world at DXing, right?”

Tondelayo made a little hissing sound and started for the cake knife, but Zedd stayed her with a magnanimous gesture, never taking his eyes from his nephew. “You being the best?” he asked with deceptive quiet in his tone.

“In all modesty, yes,” High Speed smiled “After all, Uncle Q. R., you are sort of over the hill, right? I mean, even Pete Rose has slowed down.”

“Yes, I’m sure you’re right,” Zedd said.

“And I have two college degrees,” High Speed added.

Zedd sighed. “Indeed. Yes. You must know everything.”

“Not everything,” High Speed corrected him. “After all, there are things that doesn’t interest me and I haven’t looked into some of them hardly at all.”

At this point an alarm system began to wail outside the main radio shack.

Tondelayo looked up sharply. “That’s the rare Asian DX alarm.”

Momma Zedd stood. “Maybe I’ll go work it.”

Zedd punched in some digits on the computer keyboard at his side. The LCD display lit up. He read it. “Seems to be an XV and also an XW upband a little,. he said calmly. He started to unwind from the chair.

“The pileup must be tremendous,” High Speed said, his tension showing. “Maybe you’d better let a younger man go work them.”

“That’s a fine idea,” Zedd smiled. “Help yourself to the shack.”

High Speed went running, thongs slapping the pavement. The door to the radio room slammed behind him.

“I swanee, son,” Momma Zedd said crossly. “Are you going to let that whippersnapper use your station to work that DX before you do?”

“Who needs another XW or XV?. Zedd yawned.

“It’s the principle of the thing. Momma said indignantly. “That squirt really believes he’s greater than you.”

“Momma is right,” Tondelayo chimed in. “Oh, O. R., how could you?”

Seeing the tears in Tondelayo’s darling eyes, Zedd was moved. He heaved another sigh and squinted at the sun, now lowering in the sky. “Clouds are interesting,” he murmured. “Looks like a barnburner of an inversion, for sure.”

Thoughtfully he took the small screwdriver out of his shirt pocket and popped the back off his Icom handi talkie. Squinting inside, he poked around with a nail file. “Ought to be easy enough to grind this off a little and add a bit of earwax and bring it down in frequency….”

While Zedd meddled, signs betrayed High Speed’s frantic’ activity inside the shack. The auxiliary power generating plant down the hill whanged into action. Four 10-over-10 monobanders began to sweep toward the west • atop their 600-foot towers to the south. We could hear the receiver coming online, and the pileup was already horrendous, with more than the usual cussing and name-calling.

The patio lights dimmed a bit as High Speed began to tune.

“Hurry, darling, whatever you’re doing,” Tondelayo entreated.

“Almost finished,” Zedd murmured, jerking a small component out of the handi and looking around the deck. “Momma, hand me that TV remote control, will you?”

Up in the wispy clouds over the antenna farm, the tips of the wide-spaced monoband yagis began to glow red. The linear was tuning up.

“Q. R.!” Tondelayo begged.

Zedd smiled and clapped the back onto the handi again. He turned it on, keyed it, and read the digital frequency readout on his Dick Tracy wristwatch. Satisfied, he scanned the clouds again and tilted the handheld so that the rubber duck was at a 45-degree angle to the horizon.

“Got to have just the right angle of deflection,” the great man murmured.

Lightning bolts blasted off the yagis overhead as High Speed began screaming into the pileup. When he unkeyed, the roar of the pileup was unbelievable.

“And,” Zedd said, smiled again, “timing is important.”

He listened to the yelling and shouting and megawatt name-calling for another few seconds.

“Then, making sure his rubber duck angle was correct against his supersonic perception of the level of the ionosphere, he keyed the handi.

“Alpha five alpha,” he said quietly.

Inside the shack, the reciever boomed with a high-pitched Asian voice. “Alpha five alpha! Alpha five alpha! This is great honort, sir! You are five and nine, five and nine QSL?”

Zedd’s eyebrow drooped with the old pride of an old warrior. Being sure to hold the rubber duck correct, he keyed again. “Roger. I QSL the five and nine. You also are five and nine at Honor Roll Ranch. QSL?”

The XW QSL’d. High Speed has gone back to California, where it was reported that he is telling everyone DX is dumb anyway, and he is going into computers.

Zedd has his Icom back on two meters again, and is usually listening on the /06 machine.