| TABLE MT. STAR PARTY
2000 (Regional with 1200 participants)
It was a week before the annual Table Mountain Star Party. I had been hearing a thunking noise from the base of my 10" Dobsonian telescope and decided to have it checked at the Amateur Telescope Making meeting. To my surprise the design of the floating mirror and cell, that I had thought safe and secure, had pushed and pulled until the mirror was only holding on by one of three globs of silicone. One. It was only a matter of time before death by dropping. A new design was needed and Paul jumped into action to save the day. The mirror also had water spots on it from one of the worst dew nights at the Butte star party two weeks before. I ran for parts while Paul rebuilt it and wished my mirror. By the next day I was back from the store, the telescope was ready for viewing. If the mirror had broken at Table or anytime, well we won't go there.
The days, the hours and minutes led Darrell, Paul and myself to elevation 6350 ft. One lane road led us to the top with turn outs here and never there. I am not a fearful person, mostly, but when I am in a camper and truck going on one lane, with drop off on one side and the ditch on the other, need I say more. The steep hillsides transformed into wildflower’s of hot reds, deep blues and daisy whites. The stunted trees fell away and off in the distance was an encampment on a knoll. A city of 1200 persons had grown out of grass and sage brush. Every shape of home on wheels were there, big, small, odd and familiar. All space was utilized.
The front row camping spots around the telescope field had been taken. Darrell and Paul went off to find a site by foot. Paul returned saying Darrell was saving us a spot and to follow him. With my camper and Paul's truck we waddled in and out of yellow ribbons until we found a spot just on the other side of down. To level us off, Darrell used rocks and even a spoon to dig a hole for the front tire. (We forgot our wooden blocks and shovel.)
We moved our telescopes up into the center of the telescope field. Had I died and gone to telescope heaven? Most of them were in silver cloaks awaiting the dark time. One, two, too many. Is this Christmas time in July? Not in my wildest dreams...
One of my intents was to enter the telescope contests. With the great help of many people I had made a 10" Dobsonian Telescope. I chose to enter the categories of Optics and Best First Telescope. Paul entered Blue Moon, a home made 17" truss Tube Dobsonian in two categories as well. That night Paul aligned my telescope. I had done a fair job of culminating but for the contest I needed help. We did not expect anything to really happen that night. Well, Mother Nature said other wise. Give them stars, clear skies, oh yeah, and throw in the Aurora but keep it up north so others can view their desires. The many long and cold nights of sitting and waiting for the aurora melted away in one evening. So did the film. Bedtime 3 am.
The ground was red powder and it drifted when ever you walked. As Friday night came upon us I settled down to getting ready for the 10:30 pm judging for Optics. An hour before the judging, when I went to adjust the eyepiece mount, the mount froze. Panic me, not me. Paul came to the rescue and fixed it. Stress level was now at 10 and I was very nervous. Miss Nervous meets a judging panel of six. The trick here was to talk intelligent when they talked to me. "So how did you make the mirror?" they asked. I am not sure what I said or if I answered their questions. They had me pick a sky object for them to look at. I choose the Double Star cluster in Perseus. They did several other tests, said thank you and then walked away from the telescopes to decide among themselves. I was so glad it was over.
That night Darrell, Paul and I wowed away the night with a return engagement of the aurora. It almost seemed sinful to see it for two nights in a row. The telescope field was a mixture of flashing red lights, words of wonder and stories of the big ones that got away or were found. It did not seem any different than a night at the Butte. There was laughter, the stories and the crowd saying wow when a meteor crossed the sky. Bedtime 3 am.
On Saturday morning at 10am was the famous Swap Meet over by the concession stands. I had been warned about this. It was yard sale junky meets telescope bargain world. Darrell made the mistake of asking Paul if a C-8 over in the corner was a good bargain. I was interested in doing Photography. At 10:30 am was the judging for Best First Telescope. I don't remember much of what transpired that morning. Between my being in one location for the judging of Best First Telescope (more forgotten questions) and going to another location to buy the C-8, confusion was a close second. Sometimes to much excitement shuts me down. Darrell and I pooled all of our cash and wrote the man a check. Darrell and I came home with the help of Visa. People had warned me about taking money to Table Mt. . A third night of viewing was canceled due to too much smiling and not enough sleep.
Paul said at the last SAS meeting that if it wasn't for Dan Bakken teaching him about mirrors he wouldn't have been able to teach me. I agree with this. If it wasn't for the Atmer's, my husband and Paul's continuous effort to keep my telescope in great shape, I don't think I would have won the Best First Telescope prize. I consider this award a group effort. This is one of things I like about this club, you give me the support I need to reach my goals. Thanks. Will I give you my award, no.
When they were reading off the names of the winners of the six prizes, Paul's name did not come up. I was surprised that he had not won. Then they said they don't normally give a prize for Judges Favorite Best Telescope, but this year they had found one that showed the qualities of what they like best in a hand made telescope. The Judge talked about the wood coming from the attic. To Paul's surprise they called his name.
On Sunday morning the momentary village of sky watchers dissolved quickly into the valley below. Even though I had a wonderful time, I still much prefer the Butte even on a cold windy night when common sense says I should be home. Nothing beats friends, a telescope and Universe.BACK TO THE SHORT STORY PAGE