Thomas Doty – Storyteller

Siskiyou Pass

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The SOS Transmitter

When I was twelve and growing up in Medford, I bought a World War I SOS transmitter at a yard sale for a buck. What a machine: a bright orange box with khaki shoulder strap and a black-handled crank to make it whir distress signals into the invisible world of radio waves.

I lugged it to the top of Hospital Hill and started cranking. Amazing! Within minutes, three police cars and a fire engine were headed my way, lights flashing, sirens whining.

Hiding in blackberries at the foot of the hill, I waited out the siege, shaking with excitement and fear. Years later, I contemplate the awesome power of war machines -- even small ones -- especially in the hands of a child.