Whitesburg KY
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Walking TV line was tough

Points East


One evening last week in the midst of a booming thunderstorm, howling wind and torrential rain, our family was gathered around the television anxiously awaiting news as to whether or not this thing was going to turn into a tornado.

All of a sudden the screen went blank and then a message popped up that the satellite receiver had temporarily lost its signal. What this means is that the upper atmospheric conditions are so dense that a signal can’t get through them and, normally, this phenomena lasts only a few minutes and usually just for seconds.

Other members of my family are prone to howl and whine when the signal is lost for even an instant in bad weather if the electric power is still on. No signal is available if the power is off, because we’d have no way of watching and receiving it anyway unless we installed a high dollar generator to power up the house.

Temporary loss of satellite signal does not faze me. All I do is sit back and thank the Good Lord that I don’t have to walk half a mile straight up a steep mountain to see what’s fallen across the TV line.

When I was growing up at Blair Branch near Jeremiah we were without a television signal at least as much as we had one. Restoring that signal required climbing a mountain that had slopes of more than 45 degrees — so steep in places that we had steps dug into the hillside and places that required grabbing one sassafras bush after another to pull ourselves up the hill.

The path ran up the hill directly under the TV line through the understory of the forest, and all it took was a heavy wind to knock a limb down on the line and, presto, no TV.

And it wasn’t just the weather. Night birds could find the line and decide to perch or roost on it and there went our TV signal.

Until I was in college we only received the three major networks and PBS, but “Wagon Train,” “Bonanza,” “Have Gun Will Travel,” “Cheyenne,” “Laramie,” “Sugar Foot,” “Maverick,” and a host of other westerns were shows that my dad could not live without. I can even remember the nights and times on which they appeared.

Cass Walker’s early morning show featured a variety of bluegrass music while old Cass himself promoted all the specials at his grocery stores in southwest Virginia and east Tennessee along with the weather and his highly conservative opinions on world news. The show, broadcast on the Tennessee stations, started at 5 a.m., and Dad would get up at 4:00 to make sure he had a signal.

He was able to devise a way to disconnect the TV line from the back of the set and plug it into a regular household current so that 110 volts flowed between our house and the array of antennas atop the mountain. Many a time I’ve seen sparks fly up on the mountain when an errant bird or even an ivy vine had shorted out the circuit. Nine times out of 10 this solved the reception problem. It was not unusual to walk the line when something serious had fallen across it and find the carcasses of birds or even squirrels that Dad had electrocuted for shorting out his signal.

Now all we have to do is wait a few minutes at most, and if the power is on we have more than 100 stations right back on without having to do a bit or work on our own. Dad would have been more than impressed with modern technology.

On the other hand, I doubt that there is anything on television these days that he would bother watching.


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