Uncle Albert Gets his Coax Cable Cut
When you piss people off on a regular basis, someone will eventually get even....
Uncle Albert got his start in CB in the beginning of 1974 and he was also one of my closest locals, living barely 7 doors away. This relative closeness allowed him the unique opportunity to almost completely jam my receive, and compete strongly with my transmit, if he was in one of his frequent clowning around or belligerent moods. In the early years, this was a common occurrence, not just with me, but with other locals who happened to rub him the wrong way at any given moment, which wasn't a difficult task to do. In the very beginning, it wasn't so bad as many of his "antics" were somewhat funny (as long as you weren't the object of his clown act) . But after awhile it got old. Even a good joke loses its appeal after the 10th time that you hear it. But, like many immature people, when you complained to him about it, it only drove him to do it more. When we all were limited to walkie-talkies, I would secretly run out to the Radio Shack or Lafayette store and purchase crystals for a channel that he didn't have, which would then give me an escape. My reprieve was only temporary though as he would invariably run out and buy the same channel a few days or so later. This went on for a few months, and was largely responsible for my growing crystal collection. But when we all managed to finally upgrade to full 23 channel radios, escape prospects became limited. In fact, the situation became worse for me in mid 1974, as he had gotten a decent half wave base antenna to go along with his new Midland radio, while I was stuck running a home made 1/4 wave whip. The sharp contrast in signals meant that he could key over me and take me out completely without even trying very hard. It wasn't until October 1974, when I got my Comstat and a half wave antenna of my own, did I once again regain a slight upper hand. But even though my signal was once again slightly stronger than his was, he still competed enough that others sometimes had trouble understanding me. This revelation emboldened him to continue doing it. It didn't take too long before I reached my breaking point and decided that I had put up with enough of his crap. Realizing that things were not likely to change any time soon, I decided to do something about it. A few of the other locals also agreed that Uncle Albert needed to be "taught a lesson", and they shared my desire to correct this situation. So we secretly met together in person to discuss our mutual problem, and what we could do about it. One thing was certain, a simple on the air confrontation would not change things (It hadn't so far), so another more direct physical method had to be employed. Indeed, this situation called for no less than a retaliatory strike which would put the fear of God (or the FCC?) into him and would hopefully make him contemplate the seriousness of his actions, and deter him from repeating them. We didn't want him off the air for good, just for him to tone his actions down a notch or two.
Back in those pioneering radio days, there were all sorts of "CB Urban Legends" floating around which told of dramatic "Antenna Parties", where a certain unnamed troublemaker's antenna was forcibly removed from their roof, with a strong rope tied to the bumper of a car. While none of us ever knew anyone personally that this had ever happened to, these stories persisted anyway and they captured our imaginations for the sheer boldness and the decisive forcefulness in the carrying out of the act. Plus, in all honesty, these stories just sounded good, no matter how many times they were retold, even if they may have contained more than their fair share of embellishment. That likelihood didn't deter us though, and we started thinking along those lines when looking for a solution to our problem. The only fly in the ointment with the "forcible removal" solution, was that none of us were old enough to drive yet, let alone own a car with a sturdy bumper. We had serious doubts that a rope tied to a bicycle would achieve the same result. The mental picture of a bike being brought to a sudden stop at the end of the rope while the unfortunate rider kept on going forward sans bicycle might have looked good on a cartoon, and made for a few laughs. But in our reality, it was not a pretty sight. So after the cold hard facts of reality forced us to reluctantly rule out forcible antenna removal, we then started to contemplate the less complicated idea of simply cutting Uncle Albert's coax cable. It was much less dramatic to be sure, but hopefully it would be just as effective at sending a message. It wouldn't be a cake walk though, as his cable was about 15 feet up in the air where it entered his house, and there were no trees or any other nearby structures which could be climbed to facilitate easier access. Telescopic tree pruners would be the ideal solution, but none of us (or more accurately our parents) owned one of those either. So after hashing out our rapidly shrinking available options, we all went home. While we had thought of some good sounding ideas, and had some fun retelling stories, we failed to come up with much in the way of a solid workable plan, and our problem remained.
A few days later, while rummaging through my garage, I came up with an idea. I had found a long square wooden pole in the back of the garage, which turned out to be one of those measuring sticks used to check the level in underground fuel oil tanks. It was about 12 feet long, which was just long enough to reach Uncle Albert's coax cable. I also had a used CO2 cartridge from a BB gun. After cutting off the top of the cartridge, I could fill it with Zippo lighter fluid, stick a wick in there, and it became an instant candle. I then taped the CO2 cartridge to the top of the pole. My plan was to hold the candle-tipped pole under Uncle Albert's coax cable and burn the coax cable through, melting the dielectric, and thereby shorting it out. This actually seemed to be a better solution than simply cutting it, as the evidence would not be quite as visually obvious from the ground. So late one night, I put my plan into action. I grabbed my "tools" and walked down the street toward his house trying not to look too conspicuous while carrying a 12' long pole. When I reached the area underneath his antenna, I lit the candle, raised the pole up, and held it under his cable. But after about 30 seconds or so, nothing seemed to be happening and at that point I realized that it would take much longer than I had planned, and my nerves got the better of me. There was not much in the way of cover, except for some small shrubs which didn't do a good job of hiding me from any potential passers by on the street. I was very conspicuous where I was (and what I was doing), and the last thing I needed was to get caught. So I hastily aborted the mission, quickly left the area, and headed home, while trying again not to look too suspicious. I was hopeful that in the short time that I had been "torching" his cable, that it might have done some damage. But when Uncle Albert appeared on the radio the next day at full signal level, I knew I had failed. I was still no closer to achieving my goal.
Things were starting to look hopeless, and I had pretty much given up hope, when a lucky break happened in the unlikely form of Steve. Uncle Albert had just had a big on-air fight with Steve and, as he was prone to do, he announced Steve's full name and then gave out his street address, which was considered a big no-no on the CB back then. Steve, being somewhat paranoid himself, became furious and he soon called me on the phone to complain about Uncle Albert, as if I was his keeper or something. Based on past experience, I was not quite trusting of Steve, so he was not a part of our original plan. But sensing that the opportunity might now be right, I revealed to him our intention of cutting his coax cable, and I also told of my failed attempt to "burn" it. Normally, I wouldn't be that forthcoming with this type of private information with Steve, knowing his reputation for "double crossing" people. But I knew he was extremely pissed at Uncle Albert at the moment, and I had little to fear about him ratting me out (at least not right away). Steve then shocked me when he said that he'd take care of it as he had, the one thing that none of the rest of us had, a tree pruner. So, the next night, Steve showed up at my house, his 102" stainless steel whip banging against the crabapple trees which overhung my driveway (He was 4 years older than me, and had a car). He took the tree pruner out from the trunk of his car and we then walked up to Uncle Albert's house. Once there, Steve calmly snipped the cable in one fell swoop, which took less than 10 seconds. It turned out to be a somewhat anticlimactic ending after all the preliminary work up. I breathed a sigh of relief though, knowing that he wasn't about to rat me out now for attempting to cut the cable, being that he was now the one who actually did it.
So now the deed was done. Now there was nothing left to do but sit back and watch the aftermath as it unfolded. Since the cable was cut after Uncle Albert's bedtime, he was not initially aware of it. I had quietly spread the word among the rest of people who were involved in the plan to cut his cable before, so in school the next day, a couple people made a point to ask him if he'd be on the radio after school. Our zeal in deliberately asking this was definitely a mistake as it made him a little suspicious that we would go out of our way to ask him about something that we would never have done otherwise. In the afternoon after school was over, I was waiting for him when he got on. Instead of his usual 30+ db over S9 signal, he was now giving me about S8. I was hoping to keep him talking long enough so as to "blow" his final transistor (Damn I was cruel). But he saw that my signal was low as well, and being already suspicious, he didn't buy my cover story that I was testing something and was running on my dummy load. He knew something bad had happened to his station. Running outside, he saw the severed cable and realized what had happened. He then wisely quit trying to transmit and as a result, the channel was free of him for a little over a day. The day afterward, he appeared back on the air at his normal signal level, and he then began to level accusations at us for conspiring to cut his cable. His mother was by his side and even interjected that she had taken money, which had been earmarked for her prescription drugs, to pay for his new cable. I shot back that if replacing his cable was more important to her than her own health, then she deserved to deal with the consequences, and I further suggested that maybe her priorities were just a little bit off. Naturally, I was the prime suspect in the whole ordeal, and I denied that I was the one who cut the cable (which was the truth), but admitted that I knew about it (I couldn't very well deny it, after the deliberate dummy load ruse). I also defended the action and suggested that had she monitored her son's activities a bit closer, she'd have understood why it happened.
I truly believe that he thought, for the longest time, that I was the one who actually performed the deed, although he could never prove it. He would occasionally bring up the "fact" that I cut his cable, out of the blue, during totally unrelated conversations, for several years afterward. Those of us who knew the truth, amazingly, managed to keep the details secret. Eventually, some years later, the truth was revealed to him. By then though, his whole attitude had changed, and he wasn't the same immature goof off. But even though several years had passed, he was still a little bent out of shape about it, and he did bust Steve's stones a bit as a result.
So after all that effort was expended in brainstorming, planning, building, sneaking around, and finally making it happen, just what did we accomplish? Well, at the very least, we managed to get one whole "Uncle Albert Free" day. More importantly, we succeeded in sending a message. Indeed, in the months that followed, he was somewhat humbled and seemed to back off a bit from his normal belligerence. I guess he knew that it could just as easily happen again. And that was our whole point. Plus, as with other threats which brought us all together against a common adversary, we had fun getting together off the radio to swap stories and to contemplate our next moves. It's also a strange realization to find out that it's often the bad situations which provide the vehicle for some of the most memorable occasions.
At that time, and for some time afterward during that first 10 years of my CB radio hobby, Uncle Albert was the only person I knew personally, who had his cable cut. Sometime later, in the early 80's, it would happen again. This time the unfortunate victims were Uncle Chuckie, Mary Beth, and yours truly. But that's another story......