My dad is climbing to the top of a 40-foot pine tree beside our house.
But there’s no reason to worry.
He has emphysema, a bad heart, 40 years’ worth of very hard living, an unfiltered cigarette addiction, and clearly a lack of trust in others.
It’s all good.
The pine tree is close enough to the house that you could climb onto the roof and then simply step onto the tree halfway up.
The roof will save you a lot of pine tar grief.
And here’s the thing, anyone of us could have done it.
My brother, a few other guys working for my dad, or even I could have accomplished this difficult, but doable task.
But at approximately 51 years of age with the aforementioned maladies, he was clearly the right one for the job of installing a new 20-foot CB/short wave antenna on the top of the aforementioned 40-foot pine tree.
CB radios were a big thing then. Once he installed it, he could talk to new friends as far away as New Zealand.
He’d sit in his room with a large radio shouting: “Skip land, skip land, skip land.”
A few seconds later, you’d hear the reply from the other side of the world:
“Go ahead skip land” in a cool Kiwi accent.
And so it went four months.
It was cool having a short-wave base station. I still remember our FCC license, which we were required to get to operate a CB radio.
One of my friends made his license into a sign-song every time he signed in to talk.
The K da Q da K … Something like that. I don’t remember the whole thing. (To be honest, I never completely understood his call sign.)
As a teenager, I became proficient at CB lingo.
Once, I carried on a conversation with a guy while riding west on Highway 84 towards Monroeville. Dad was driving and mom was in the passenger seat. I had control of the CB radio with the mic in my hand. I think a sister or two may have been with us. I asked the voice about the possibility of “Smokey” being in the vicinity. I suppose this would have allowed dad to speed even more than he normally went. After a few minutes, the voice decided to tell me exactly where Smokey was. Right behind us. I threw the mic down and crawled under the back seat. Everyone else got a good laugh.
The CB also became a way to meet other people – besides the police that is.
So, my friend and I were talking to anyone who’d listen one day after school. To our surprise, a lovely female voice echoed back to us through the CB radio speakers. And we spent the next 30 minutes or so flirting with this lovely voice, whoever she was. Turns out she sat right across from me in one of my classes at school. But I never had the intellectual capacity to actually talk to her in person. Maybe this explains why some disc jockeys or talk show host sound so bold on the air, but not so much in person.
Anonymity allows for a certain level of bravery/arrogance/stupidity.
And instead of merely acknowledging her the next day at school we probably just hurt her feelings. I don’t remember, but I am pretty sure that I said something stupid. Or failed to say anything.
I’ve remained surprisingly competent at saying the wrong thing through the years.
Dad finished his precarious high wire act to the relief of my mother and all of the other able-bodied men who should have been up there in the first place.
Did we really need a high-powered shortwave antenna?
With only three TV channels, it was unlikely I’d get a real life Kiwi accent piped into the room talking specifically to us.
As he eventually weakened from the reduced lung capacity and other maladies, my dad continued to talk to people all over the world.
That is, until September 1979 when Hurricane Frederick came ashore and had the audacity to uproot all of our 13 majestic 40 foot plus pine trees.
And although they all scattered like tooth picks poured from a jar onto a table top, none of them touch the house.
After that, the shortwave and CB experience stopped. Well, except for the small unit in the Pontiac Bonneville. But it wasn’t near as strong as that antenna on the top of that pine tree next to the house above the wisteria vine that dad put up on a hot summer afternoon so he could talk to people from New Zealand.
“Skip land. Skip land. Skip land. Come in Skip land.”
“Go ahead Skip land.”