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"Tower Gypsy" Installs KWVH Transmitter

Water towers, radio towers, and cell towers dot our landscape. But have you ever wondered what brave (and perhaps crazy) kind of person has the intestinal fortitude to install the equipment that makes our modern lives possible?

On a recent crisp fall week, one of those so-called “tower gypsies,” Willie Jackson, visited the Wimberley Valley to install KWVH’s new transmission equipment high atop the Wayside Drive twin water towers.

Willie has been scaling towers for 30 years, visiting 47 states. He learned the trade from his father, an ironworker who was told he could make a dollar an hour more by volunteering to scale whatever needed to be climbed. Willie took to it naturally, but he says it’s still a job that requires a certain amount of fear.

“You’ve got to respect it, or you shouldn’t be up there,” explains Willie. “It’s not so much the fear of falling; it’s more the fear of landing.”

In the greater scheme of things, the Wayside Drive water tower is child’s play, rising just 100 feet. Willie has scaled giant TV transmission towers that rise 1700 feet into the blue. He prefers the “old school” broadcast towers over cell towers.

“I stick to the hands-on stuff, because the newer digital cell towers keep me in the truck all day on a computer doing paperwork,” Willie says.

Thankfully, 100 feet is enough to roughly double the coverage area of Wimberley Valley Radio. It’s part of the station’s new license to increase its transmission power from 30 watts to 100 watts. The previous transmitter was mounted only 25 feet high on a tower near the junction of Ranch Road 12 and 32.

“This new transmitter will significantly improve the signal strength and penetration of 94.3 FM,” said Tim Kiesling, KWVH general manager. “This upgrade was possible because of the many volunteers and businesses within this remarkable community.”

The station provides homegrown music, entertainment, and Wimberley Texan programming -- while serving as a vital resource to the community during winter storms, fires, and floods. Brach Thomas, the station’s production and operations director, has even incorporated an auxiliary studio at the new tower site. It’s designed to keep the station on the air if another flood hits Cypress Creek and the nearby KWVH headquarters.

So the next time you turn the dial to a crystal-clear KWVH signal, tip your hat to Willie Jackson. He just might be the highest Willie in Texas.

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