The antennas strapped to their trucks and vans look like they could send a signal to the moon.
These men and women have catchy names such as Smooth Operator, Cool Breeze and Lady Wildflower. They talk a lot, on the citizens band, that is.
The Garden City Channel Masters CB Club held its annual radio competition, called a break, Saturday in a south Augusta cow pasture. About 400 radio enthusiasts came from as far away as New York and Texas to compete to see who had the smoothest voice and best radio rig.
"This thing is known worldwide," said Moses Robinson, a local organizer. "The guy who wins this is known as the reigning champion of the cow pasture."
Saturday's competition, as one observer said, was a "radio drag race." Radio operators with antennas poking off their trucks were paired off to send signals simultaneously over the same channel to an operator 32 miles away. The signal that gets there first and strongest wins. The other guy takes a seat.
CB users will hold these breaks all over the country during the coming months, but Augusta's competition is noted as one of the biggest, several participants said. The out-of-towners call the area the backwoods of Georgia.
There's a reason they meet out in a cow pasture. Some of these radios are so powerful they need open space or they might tear up the neighbor's television, several participants said.
The first thing one notices about this group of CB enthusiasts is everybody calls each other by their radio handles, the names they go by on the airwaves. Birth names don't work.
Smooth Operator from Memphis, Tenn., is Alonzo Lilton, a machine operator with the post office who has penchant for smooth driving. He wasn't competing Saturday, just came to watch and see old friends.
As he spoke, two autos were lined up in a drag race formation. The green light said go. The engines revved, but the cars weren't going anywhere. Their radios were. The standoff lasts 10 seconds.
"It's like the Indy 500," said Mr. Lilton, surveying the cow pasture. "They call this the killing grounds. This is where the shootout occurs."
Lady Wildflower - Betty Thomas - made such a connection 17 years ago talking from Aiken to Augusta. Ms. Thomas met her husband Tom Thomas, known as Mojo on the radio, over the crackle of the citizens band.
"We met in person a couple weeks later," said Ms. Thomas. She's the club secretary. He's the club president. "We've been talking on the radio ever since."
Do Right is Clayton Slocumb's radio name out of New York. He used to be Crazy Man, but someone else had the name. Mr. Slocumb wore a shirt Saturday with Do Right air brushed onto it.
Mr. Slocumb said the real thrill of talking on a CB is making a connection with someone in another state, sometimes clear across a continent.
"You'll be talking to someone down in some other state and they'll tell you that you're coming in real good down here Do Right," said Mr. Slocumb, whose soothing high-pitched voice was made for the radio. "That's a good feeling."
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