A brief autobiography of radio operator K4RO

I became interested in radio and electronics at a very early age. One of my earliest memories is plugging a pair of rabbit ear antennas into a wall socket, and receiving a 120 volt electric shock that almost killed me. I have not been able to stay away from wires and high voltages since that day. My first two-way radio was a 27 MHz (CB) unit in the early 1970's. As I entered high school, I decided to pursue an amateur radio (also known as ham radio) license. Since those early days as a teenager, my interest in radio has led me down some interesting paths, and to some great folks as well. To this day I still find radio to be a magical medium. I particularly enjoy the so-called "short wave" or High Frequency (HF) bands. Over the years, I have constructed a station capable of effective worldwide communications on the primary Amateur Radio HF bands.

First licensed in 1976 in Pittsburgh, PA with the call sign of WB3FAX, I now reside in Pegram, TN. Pegram is about 20 miles west of Nashville, a.k.a. Music-City USA. I had no real Elmer (someone to show you the ropes) to speak of in my early years of radio. After experimenting with CB radio in the early seventies, I decided to pursue a ham ticket when I entered the eighth grade. My Novice test was administred by volunteers who worked at a nearby Westinghouse research center. These fine folks also conducted an electronics class in conjunction with the ham license preparation study.

My coveted ticket arrived from the FCC in December 1976. I was on the air with a Heathkit HW-7 transceiver (3 watts) and a piece of wire nailed to my neighbor's house (thanks to the Kearney family for tolerating the wires and the RFI.) It took about 3 weeks of calling people fruitlessly before I made my first ham radio QSO (two-way contact) with WA1ZXJ, Evelyn Petitti on January 19, 1977. We used CW (Morse code) on 7.121 MHz, in what was then the 40 meter Novice band. Novices were only permitted to use CW, and it would be some time before I had a rig capable of phone (voice) communication.

I eventually learned to tune CW signals properly, and I started making more contacts. I remember making nightly QSOs with Don Aiello WB3CCG who lived in the next neighborhood over, about 3 miles away. We would stay up late driving our families crazy, pounding away on our little Archer Morse code keys. I remember working KZ5DO in the Panama Canal Zone one afternoon with my peanut whistle transmitter -- what a thrill! That was serious DX during my Novice days. Radio was great fun back then, and it remains a thrill to this day.

After limited radio success during high school in Pittsburgh, I was basically inactive from 1980-1988 after moving to Nashville. Although I kept a limited station ready for action, I very rarely got on the air. In the late 1980's I started to get back into the hobby. I caught the DX bug, and began to really enjoy CW (morse code) operation again. It wasn't long before I was hunting for a good site for a home; preferably high on a hilltop or ridgetop, with appropriate real estate for an effective tower and antenna installation. I found that site in October 1991, and then began building the ham radio station that I had dreamed of since I was a child. I also got back into DXing (chasing rare countries) and lots of HF CW operation.

One cold winter evening in January 1993 as I was tuning across the 160 meter CW band, I stumbled upon a CW contest in full bloom. I started working folks one right after another, really enjoying the operating experience. All fifty US states were contacted in a single operating session on the 160 meter CW band -- more than I had worked during the entire previous year of operating! This was the most fun that I'd ever had in front of a radio. The following year I entered the contest full-time, and I submitted a log. My call sign at that time was WR3O.

It wasn't long before I started to receive invitations from other contest operators to participate in more operating events. It seemed that I had stumbled into a strange but intensely passionate group of folks. WA6KUI (now WO4O) extended an invitation to join the brand-new Tennessee Contest Group, and that was a major turning point in my ham radio life. The TCG turned out to be a great bunch of folks, with room for both the novice and the world-class operator. The greatest gift from ham radio has been the friends that I've made along the way. Most of my ham radio operating these days is focused around operating contests and DXing. Few things in life compare with the passion and camaraderie of my fellow contesters. I am grateful to be a part of this wonderful hobby. See you on the air!

73 (Best wishes)

--Kirk Pickering, K4RO

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