Nature Notes: Porcupines and Porches

Recently I received a request from my newly hired publicist for a “head shot.”  It sounded simple enough. I clicked on a couple of photos used by the press previously for my book and off they went.

“Can’t use. Low resolution.  If you can’t fix it, send something else.”  And yet the press, two newspapers, and others had reproduced the shot without fuzziness. Maybe it was just my glasses.

I wrote back to my good friend, David, who made the original shot.

“Take out the turkey neck while you are at it,” I admonished, hoping we could squeeze a cleansing photo shop into the deal.

“Can’t upload it,” he wrote back–after a few days.  This is not apples to oranges.  It must be Apple to PC.

Now I’m behind deadline.

The publicist’s emails continue–helpful reminders.  With each click and send, I get a retort with jpg’s and DPI’s listed, instructions that work on a Samsung Galaxy III, how to set for the highest resolution.  “It’s all there under the right click,” she said.

Right click.  Well, that says it all, doesn’t it?  If we could just have the right click, you and I, everything would be–if not hunky dory–at least turkey neck and all.  High resolution indeed.

Out of curiosity I check some photos I took on my old Panasonic camera.  Did it properly deliver the DPI’s and if so of what?  (By the way, a DPI is dots per inch.)

The photo of Mr. Porcupine seemed a natural, poofed up quills and all.  And he passed muster: the photo registered a solid 300 DPI.

I think of sending him in my stead.  But instead I think about when and how I photographed him.

There had been an invasion of my screened-in porch.  Gone was the feral cat with gorgeous green eyes who had used the cat door.  In his place?  One night when I flicked on the porch light to carry out some trash, I almost stepped on a skunk who had slipped in for the night, maybe on the trail of left over cat food.

Next, of a morning a few weeks later, I opened the door to a possum.  Or should I say an o’possum?  Either way here was a possum in Oldham County.  I had no idea they were even around here.

Then just a short time after that I opened the door one night to a rustle I heard on the front porch.  This time it was a porcupine that had slipped through the cat door.

Problem: not only was there a porcupine but how to hustle him off the porch?  (Skunks might lose interest after a while and possums, well, there’s no real place to hang out.) He had expanded, the porcupine, with the quills and all, glistening, ready as a pin cushion.

I thought it over, shut the door, and went to bed.  Like many things in our lives, we hope if we ignore them they will go away.

True and not true.  Next day Mr. Pine was in my dearest and oldest elm tree apparently napping.  At least he wasn’t nibbling, but I realized what had attracted him in the first place.  Wood.  Wooden porch, old wooden elm tree.  Given time, he would strip the bark away, eventually killing the tree.

He had to go, I am sorry to report (I am both a tree-hugger and an animal lover).  He fell like a stone when a retired deputy sheriff in town volunteered to get rid of him for me (but can’t you trap him?), shooting him out of the tree.  “Wait, wait,” I had called.  I wanted to get a photograph.

On the ground, he had tiny soft black feet shaped like a baby’s.  And the quills were soft.  Except for his preference for bark, we were kin.

Death made me see him differently.  But too late.  Once a pest, now he was fascinating.  Mr. Three Hundred DPI’s, momento memori–you’re all that’s left.

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