Heading home from work last night I was redirected due to a crash at the entrance to an Interstate that I needed to get on. Looking for an alternate side street to get around this rush-hour mess, I pulled into a neighborhood but quickly discovered it was a dead-end. I pulled into the first driveway that I found so I could turn around but paused a moment when I noticed the multi-band dipole in the backyard.

Having never visited this neighborhood I was clueless about the occupant of the home though there was little doubt that a radio ham lived there.

The antenna was supported by a couple of TV masts and looked to be only 12-15 feet in the air and was barely visible over the peak of the roof. Not terribly impressive but no doubt functional. That’s part of the mystery of HF, you can put any old antenna up and a little RF will find a way to squirt out of it.

I didn’t want to linger in the driveway because it probably seemed odd to anyone inside, so I backed away and found an alternate route to the Interstate.

But during the rest of the drive home I kept wondering who this might have been, and what kind of HF work did they do, and most of all, was it possible that I had worked this person before? I’ll never know for certain, but this is a common discovery.

The guys with the gigantic towers are easy to identify. But there are multiplied thousands of radio operators tucked away in “secret” places all over the land. Using attic antennas, stealth antennas, and low-profile wire antennas there’s a sizeable contingent of under-the-radar amateur radio enthusiasts who make do with what they have every day with considerable success.

Making do with what you’ve got is the quintessential story of our hobby from its earliest days. Though it doesn’t get much attention, this above everything else, is what’s kept the fire burning and progress moving us forward into a second century of radio.