WINNING A TELESCOPE

AT TABLE MT. STAR PARTY  (Regional) July 2001

Its a curious bunch that will drive up a one lane road to a mountain, pitch tents, and puts up with a chilling wind and bitter cold. It was a great four days, full of laughter, interesting people and the love of astronomy. One of the fun things to do is to walk around the telescope field and see the handy work of others who have made there own telescopes. My imagination and creativity was never let down. The telescopes had there basic requirements, but the way in which they wereTable me won 2001, me.jpg (26077 bytes) created made each one very different. One gentleman used Kmart camera tripod legs for his tress tubes on his 16" truss tube Dobsonian. This made it possible to fold them up for packing. There were several different designs for mounting the mirror as well. Each new telescope was like unwrapping a present. The more I looked, the more new inventive ways I found.

Venders offered treasures of astronomy equipment, art work, and Astro photos. Food venders filled the mountain air with tantalizing aromas. Speakers brought information to challenge the mind. On Saturday morning there was swap meet for any astronomy related items that needed new homes. The group putting on the event had purchased a big hanger dome tent for the meetings. It had rained in the early morning hours so the swap meet was being held inside this building. There was no lighting inside and the cloud cover had cut down on the natural lighting that filtered in from the one open end. The farther you entered the tent, the darker it became.

The sellers were lined all alone the inside of the huge tent. A large group of us hovered outside of the opening awaiting the words to enter. A buying frenzy was about to commence. As we eagerly waited for the word, more sellers entered, never to be seen again. Even though I was right in front of the crowd, when they said we could go in, I found myself swallowed up and moving like a wave on the beach. Backs, fronts, face on face, where was the sellers, what did they have? Was I missing the bargain of a life time? Should I be here or over there? The darkness swallowed Darrell and then Paul. We became a globular cluster moving in a confine field. I tried to find something I needed. Money was burning in my pocket. Most items were a rich man's bargain. Many telescopes, eye pieces, magazines, odds and ends where spread out on the make shift tables or on the ground. One fellow had a pile of about 50 binoculars of every size and shape piled on the grass. Some worked, some didn't. Make him an offer. Slowly, without noticing, the items in my arms started to grow. Books for two dollars, an aurora picture, and a set of binoculars for $5. And yet the pushing and shoving continued. I turned and someone had a plate of food in front of them. Are they crazy? Its hard not be rude with some of the people let alone dodging food as well. As I progress, I found more treasures I can't afford. Tripods holding small telescopes, a 12" Dobsonian, mirror blanks, items I had no idea what they were. I found a set of three books that are a copy of articles written in the 1920's on how to build telescopes. As I left the tent jazzed about all the fun I had, arms full of bargains, I realized that there was not another yard sell to go to at this 6300 foot level and I would have to calm myself down. I watched the person with the food plate leave the tent an hour later with the food still intact.

At 4pm that Saturday afternoon, 800 people who were still on the mountain brought folding chairs over to the big field  to help celebrate the contest winners of the home made telescope and hopefully get a chance to win some of the door prizes totaling $11,000. Many people had left due to the cold weather and one gentlemen had collected about 8 tickets. This was not very fair when all of us had just one. After all the awards were passed out the reading of the numbers began. The small things went first, followed by several Star Atlas 2001's and astronomy books and then the more expensive items, like an eyepieces valued over $300 and computer programs. I didnít want to win the small items. I wanted an expensive eyepiece that I would never buy for myself. Over a period of 45 minutes I watched how the new winners had come forth to collect there prizes. I held my ticket square and clean, waiting for the right one. I watched the eyepieces slip by and go to others. Finally it came to the big prize. An 8" LX200 Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope valued at $3000.

The crowd grew silent and each prayed to win. I was excited and full of anticipation. I was looking for four digits. First two, 88 yes, third number 4, yes, and the last number 1, was right, 8841. I sprang from my seat, and with the surety of each step I raced around the crowd just like all the others and down to the front. Yes, I know it, it was mine. I felt the sureness when they said 88, I knew it when they said 4 and them when they said 1 it was just for there own conformation not mine. I knew it was mine.

My husband  was feeling the loss of his number, our friend was too. When they looked up they saw me walking up to the announcer. Here is the ticket. I glowed, I bounced. I was so happy. A man in the front row asked me if I was married. Everyone laughed. I said yes. I had been feeling this all day. I had been excited and unsure but hadnít thought about asking my self why. The rest is a blur, a wonderful blur. More jokes were made about being married. They gave me T-shirt as well, extra Large. I think they expected a man to win. Within a half an hour though, after all the hand shaking, a few pictures, I was back at my camp site, cooking dinner and doing dishes. Winning is sweet and short. Oh, that gentleman that had 8 tickets, he didnít win anything.

We were stranded on an island waiting for rescue by a clear black night. It had been a cold and windy three days but on the fourth night the clouds gave away to clear transparency. If you have to go to a cold weather star party, just take some friends along with you and fun and laughter will take the bitterness out of the cold. All my excitement had been spent on the events of the day. Paul wanted to do some pictures on his new tracking devise and he allowed me to use Blue Moon a 17" Truss Tube Dobsonian (telescope) for the night. My husband, Darrell, used the 13" Coulter. Darrell let Helen, our friend,  use my 10" Dobsonian. Jerry viewed around the sky with his telescope as well. Quietly as the night progress I traveled around the universe in search of new objects I had not seen. I didnít visit with the others much, just content to view for that was what we had all come for. Hearts were warmed by the long awaited viewing night. I was sitting in shock, wondering at times if this was all real. The night was complete when the Space Station traveled over head and the latest Shuttle craft, who had undocked earlier traveled a distance in front of it. All went quiet on the mountain as we watched the two white dots travel across the sky. I wonder what they would have thought if they knew so many of us were on a mountain top watching them. For me it was a completion of a fine day. Darrell had told me no big purchases this year at Table like last year. I had agreed. But you just never know what might happen. Darrell is still shaking his head about the whole thing. I did get my new eyepiece with a telescope wrapped around it. Thanks to Table Mountain group, Anacortes Telescope and Wild Bird and Meade for a gift of a life time.

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