Friday, 21 October 2011


In past posts, I've mentioned my passion for radio. It began with my discovery of distant stations on my dad's car radio when I was ten years old and continues to this day. Because my memoirs deal with subjects other than distant signal reception, referred to by radio aficionados as DX, I haven't been able to write much about this infatuation.

One aspect of hunting for DX is travelling to remote locations that are free of man-made interference. When I learned that my cousin, Wayne, was going hunting near Lodgepole in October of 1984, I begged a ride with him.

In a clearing along a cut line, I erected a seventy-foot-long wire antenna and connected it to my general coverage receiver which I powered with a car battery. While Wayne hunted moose, I tracked down exotic stations. Just as the fresh autumn air invigorated me, so did the crystal-clear reception of stations which I could barely hear back home.

At our makeshift camp site, I often let my cousin listen to the radio. This occasionally lead to some strange situations. As we ate breakfast early one morning, I tuned in a station from Papua New Guinea. To my astonishment, the announcer began playing country music. There we were, two Canadians in the Alberta wilderness, listening to American country tunes from a station on the other side of the Pacific ocean.

Another memorable radio moment happened one night when I picked up a coast guard station in contact with a ship somewhere in the Pacific. Somebody on board it was hurt and needed a doctor. The radio man could barely speak English and the American on shore could barely understand the sailor's accent. If it wasn't a serious situation, it would have been comical.

My uncle, Bob, who hunted in a different part of the forest, met us one evening as we relaxed by the fire. When he asked what I was doing with that fancy radio, I showed him by tuning in Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcaster. Uncle Bob gawked at the set and listened in awestruck silence for a minute. "I can understand that," he exclaimed as a news announcer droned on in German. "I can understand everything he's saying. How can you pick up a signal all the way from Germany?" he marvelled.

I couldn't even begin to explain the intricacies of F2 radio wave propagation to him so I said, "Signals like that always come in like that on the short wave bands."

I felt sad at the end of the week when we packed up and drove toward Edmonton. Though Wayne came back empty-handed, I had the fulfilling experience of listening to far away stations free of annoying buzzes from TV sets and power lines.

When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) contain more examples of my love affair with radio. Click here to read more about these compelling memoirs. You may also contact me directly for further information about my books.

1 comment:

  1. I've always enjoyed listening to the radio, although I've never been into shortwave. When I was seven years old, I got a transistor radio for my birthday. We were living in Tucson, Arizona, and I loved tuning in one of the local popular music stations.

    When we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1973, we stayed with Grandma Johnson for a couple of months until we found a house of our own. Grandpa had died a couple of years earlier so I slept with Grandma in her big bed. Early in the morning, she always turned on her bedside radio and we listened to the news together. At first, I asked her why she needed to listen to the news, and she answered that she wanted to know what was going on in the world.

    When we moved into our own house, I turned on the transistor radio in my room first thing in the morning so just like Grandma, I could lie in bed and hear the news. A year or so later, I got a clock radio for Christmas, and the alarm was set so the radio would wake me first thing in the morning just like it did at Grandma's house.

    Nowadays, I listen to public radio. Since my husband doesn't like it that much, I don't turn it on first thing in the morning like I used to, but I still listen to news and other programming whenever I can.

    Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome


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