A Ham's Night Before Christmas
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'Click the Pig'
"T'was the night before Christmas, and all through two-meters,
not a signal was keying up any repeaters."
That line, adapted from the famous poem by Clement Clarke Moore, had been floating around in my head for years. I always intended to do something with it, and in December, 1996, I finally did. With some help from KE4FCJ and AC4ZO, I wrote the rest of the "Ham's Night" version of the poem. I stayed more or less true to the orignal for the first few stanzas, but then it took on a life of its own. It only took an hour or two to write (that's fast, for those of you who think this is easy). I'm kind of proud how few of the rhymes and cadences had to be tortured to fit. If you look up some of the dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of other versions of the poem that have been written, you'll see what I mean. Most are painfully contorted. And it seems that the original poem has been adapted to cover just about every group, activity and occasion you can think of.
I performed the poem live at a few radio club meetings, and it was well received (especially the line about Wayne Green). I put the text on the web, and it found its way into dozens of club newsletters and web sites. Some of them even gave me credit!
In 2003, I recorded an audio version at the SoundTrax studio in Raleigh NC, where I freelance. That ran on Newsline and ARRL Audio News. I'd been thinking of adding music to the poem, and experimented with a few tracks (Silent Night, Little Drummer Boy), but nothing really fit. In 2010, Don Mercz WA3AYR, another SoundTrax freelancer, recorded himself playing a medley of Christmas music on guitar, and gave us all a copy. When I heard Don's medley, I knew this was the one. I adjusted the tempo of the poem just a little to fit the bars of the music, and made just one edit in the music to make it time out (had to add a few seconds). But mostly it was an amazing fit.
Next, the movie... er, video. Where to get pictures? I thought about asking an illustrator or cartoonist to draw some custom pictures. But that would be a big project, and I didn't know anyone well enough to beg that much work. Animation? Live action? Way to much work. Next thought: QST covers. Every year the December issue has a Christmas or holiday theme. I asked the ARRL for permission to use them, and it was quickly granted. Only problem was that as I began to edit, I realized that there weren't nearly enough covers to do anything more than make them "wallpaper." And I was starting to want images that were appropriate for the line of the poem they would be shown against. As I browsed the old QST's, I noticed that a lot of ads also had Christmas and Santa artwork. I selected a big handful of ads and a few Gil cartoons, went through another round of permissions (from companies that were still in business, and nobody turned me down) and finally I had my images. Again, I didn't need to torture the concept too much to make the pictures fit the narrative. Almost every line is covered by something that works, and some of them are brilliant. I put the video on YouTube in December 2010, and watched the hit counter climb. In 2011, I made a special version for the ARRL, and that took off as well. (The link will take you to a page where you'll also find the text and audio versions with and without music — you can play the 'no music' version on the air!)
Here in 2012 it's time for a High Definition version. And that's what you'll find below. Rebuilding the project was fairly easy (but still a full day's work). Sometimes, though, things looked a little too good. I added some transparency to the titles showing the year and logo of each image so they didn't stand out so much. And I made my own HAMRADIONOW 'bug' almost invisible. I'm pretty happy with the result, and I hope you are, too.
Yes, it's a Christmas poem. But I offer it in the spirit of the holiday season to all, whatever you believe or celebrate. In a troubled world, this is a time when we remind ourselves that peace is the goal. I hope we find it soon.
You have my blanket permission to copy, reproduce, publish, embed, steal, lift, improve,
revise and otherwise re-use the text and audio. The images are not mine to give away,
but feel free to link to and embed the video on your web site.
73, Gary KN4AQ