Wasps on the Tower

My years in broadcasting, while stretching less than a decade, were some of the most interesting and entertaining of my life. Not only was it a very interesting vocation, I met some of the most talented and friendly people of my life. Some of those friendships lasted for many years until distance or death separated us. One of those friendships was with the man who owned WWGS, the second radio station I worked at in Tifton. It was the "standard" station with programming which was more adult in nature. It played more mature music and generally operated with a deeper commitment to quality announcing and programming. The man we all worked for was Mr. Ralph Edwards. He was the owner of WWGS.

Ralph Edwards and his wife, Evelyn were two of the nicest and most gracious people I have ever known. They are Jewish and I am a Southern Baptist. Quite a difference in spiritual orientation but we always had an amicable relationship. Ralph died in 2013 a short time after my own mother died at age 92. Mr. Edwards lived to be 96, I think. Anyway, my family knew them for many, many years and I was employed by him for a period of time. Ralph, learned early on that I was a loyal employee who would do anything he asked without griping and complaining. And, the more he became aware of that, the more was found for me to do without having to deal with employees who might have resisted extra duties. The situation was that not only was I willing to do the extra duties, I loved radio. I really enjoyed what I was doing.

One day Mr. Edwards came to me in the control room and asked what I was planning for the afternoon after I got off the air. I told him that I had nothing in particular to do so he quickly offered me a job telling me that it paid $50 extra. In the early sixties, fifty dollars was a lot of money especially for a newly married young man. So, I told him I would be glad to help. Then, he told me the job that needed to be done. He said that the light on top of one of our broadcast towers was out and it had to be changed before an airplane ran into it. Easy job, why it's only 250 feet tall! When I learned those facts, I was a bit hesitant but that fifty dollars looked awfully good.

Later that afternoon, we made the trip out to the tower site and sure enough, the light was out on one of the four towers. This is before the day of LED's so the fifteen hundred watt light bulb had to be hauled up to the top and installed. It was a huge bulb. Much larger than a normal bulb but shaped the same. You carried it on your back in a specially designed pack. In fact you carried two in case something was wrong with one of them you didn't have to descend and then go up again. There was a special rod running up the tower to which one attached a safety harness which would stop an accidental fall. After getting prepared and prayed up, I started to ascend the broadcast tower. It looked a mile high and was most intimidating. But, being young and full of "spit and vinegar", I was not about to admit that I was scared. So up I went.

A tower is made in sections which are about twenty feet in length. It is triangular in shape with a thick plate of steel at the beginning and end of each section which is where the sections are bolted together. The triangular place was about four feet on each side of the triangle. As I made my way up the tower and after I had reached about one hundred feet, I heard a strange but instantly recognizable sound. It was the sound which is made when wasps on a large nest bristle their wings in preparation for an attack. I looked up and there was a nest build under one of the triangular plates and the nest was not a small one. It looked to be about six inches in diameter and was loaded with at least fifty large wasps all ready to go after this stranger invading their space. I stopped instantly....every hair on my body standing on end in utter fear....and began to pray earnestly. I said, Lord, you know if these things get on me up here I have no defense. I can't run. They will sting me all over. Help me!!! I stayed stock still for about a minute and they settled down and went about their work. I was too far up the tower to go back down so I decided to slowly ease on by them planning to ease slowly back by them on the way back down.

I made it by the wasps without getting stung or without one even leaving the nest. But, I was dreading the trip back down. I continued my climb to the top and found that the red glass cover that fit over the light bulb to give it a red warning color was huge. It was about three feet in diameter and made of glass that was at least a half inch thick. Now, I was a small, thin guy and this glass dome was almost too much for me to lift especially while holding onto a tower at two hundred and fifty feet. When one is holding on, that is a long way up. You can see the patchwork of the fields from that height. Anyway, I got it lifted, changed the bulb and put the dome back in place. I accidently dropped a pair of pliers from that height and never found them. They penetrated the ground and were lost.

Now, to go back down and try to pass by the wasps without getting stung unmercifully. As I descended, I was very careful and approached each triangular section very slowly as I looked for that huge nest of wasps. As I mentioned earlier, I had earnestly prayed for the Lord to help me with this dangerous and unexpected situation. The tower was dangerous enough, but the wasps added a different dimension to the situation. So, each section was approached with trepidation. My confidence in prayer grew immensely that day because I came all the way down that tower and never saw those wasps again! Never! I don't know where they went or what happened to them but they were not there on the way down. The only thing that I can assume is that the Lord heard my prayer and took care of the situation for me. I like to imagine that He sent Gabriel or Michael to pick that wasp nest off the underside of that steel plate and take it somewhere else. I was most thankful to the Lord for delivering and protecting me and have been for all these years.

Recently, I rode by those four towers. I remember the one I climbed and as I passed by, I recalled that harrowing experience on a summer day in 1963. Sometimes while in Tifton, I can see them from a distance and I always think of those Wasps on the Tower and thank the Lord again for his care for me that day. He not only got me up and down that tower safely, but he saved me from being attacked and severely stung by those Wasps on the Tower.

William F. Harrell

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