Joe Phillips

There's that tree.

Ham radio operators have never been more diverse, nor more of them.

The branches of ham radio spread like an ever-growing tree. The newest is digital communications. Some use ham radio satellites via antennas made of PVC pipe and steel measuring tape. Operators bounce signals off the moon or meteors.

A dedicated group strives to contact others using the smallest amount of power possible, as in a fraction of a watt.

Others just like to turn on the radio and chat.

My first license was earned when there were two modes of operation. The “purists” used Morse Code only, the others used voice.

All amateur radio Licenses required some proficiency in Morse Code beginning with the first license at five words per minute.

Five words per minute is so slow you can stop and look up the character, and I've done that.

After the code requirement was abolished people started gravitating to it. New hams wanted to discover it: Older hams were curious about what they had missed.

Every few years I get an itch to work code and have to rebuild my proficiency to about twenty words per minute. That's not fast. Some hams hear code as a language moving too fast to write down.

It is easy to find radio equipment; selecting the proper antenna is a mystery. Some hams prefer “beams,” antennas that look like giant rotating TV antennas. They are narrowly directional and useful for sending a signal in a specific direction.

Wire antennas can also send a signal in a single direction but it takes a lot of wire, space and they don't rotate.

Some people like to listen to short wave signals and never obtain the license.

Wire antennas for short wave receivers go by the standard that “longer is better,” but that does not apply for transmitting. The length of a transmitting wire antenna has some precision points but hanging a wire between two trees is not the best plan.

Higher is also better and in that I have an opportunity.

A tree south of the house appears to be almost a hundred feet tall, or close, and is in the right direction. I want a wire antenna hanging in the top of that tree but the question is “how?”

Hams have tried many devices to sling a wire over a tree. Slingshots, bows, fishing rods — all have the ability to sling a weighted line to the top, maybe.

I just want to get a line over that tree and I found a gizmo that fires tennis balls hundreds of feet, powered by compressed air.

Here and there I have all the parts to assemble the gizmo and will get back to you when I get a line over that tree.

Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at