Thursday, July 19, 2007

On typewriters and cat-eating coyotes

It’s tempting to continue following “The History Detectives’” bungled story about the typewriter suspected of having belonged to Ernie Pyle.

The subject has attracted record traffic to the Red Electric.

And just think, I had hoped — if that’s the right word — to write about coyotes’ devouring neighborhood cats.

It’s a challenge, but I’m going to try both … and hope an elegant transition between the two emerges.

Alan Hale of the on-line Portable Typewriter Forum suggests that the History Detectives may have come up with the right conclusion about the typewriter — but for the wrong reasons.

The PBS sleuths, you recall, were trying to determine whether a Corona #3 portable, which now belongs to Eric Warlick of Portland, had once belonged to Pyle, the famed World War II correspondent.

The detectives concluded that Warlick’s typewriter was at least not the one used to write one of Pyle’s last letters from Okinawa before the WWII correspondent was killed by a sniper’s bullet. Their conclusion was based on a difference in the numeral “1” as it appeared in the letter and in the way the typewriter produced it. Their “expert” was ignorant of the fact that Pyle simply may have used the lower case “L” to make a “1,” and that Warlick’s typewriter was fully capable of doing just that as well as producing a real “1” by using a shift key. For the full discussion, go to my earlier post.

(At this point you may be looking forward to hearing about the coyotes and the demise of the neighbors’ cats, but bear with me .... )

Hale says the program’s “document expert” could have pointed to other evidence showing the typewriter’s typing didn’t match up with the typing on the letter. Hale offers some qualifications for his judgment, but here is his analysis.

“… The overall lengths of the samples were different,” which, he admits, could be attributed to variations in reproducing up the samples for display.

But, he continues, “Regardless, both the shapes and the internal proportions of the characters (both letters and numerals), and the typefaces as a whole, are distinctly different … the letter bows were much taller and fuller in proportion to the overall height on the Pyle (letter) sample.

“Besides the differences in shape, the Corona's typeface seems to be both shorter and narrower within a given character's Pica space and with generally shorter serifs, leaving more apparent space between characters — assuming, of course, that it wasn't a paste-up (distortion).”

I’d only add that if I were Ernie Pyle and dependent on a functioning typewriter in the battlefield, I’d have a back-up under my cot back at the base camp. Eric Warlick may have one; the letter may have been typed on the other.

Let’s see. An artful transition to coyotes and cats.

How about “There’s a war zone of a different sort closer to home and it is taking its toll on the neighborhood cats.”

Oh, never mind. Let’s cut to the chase, which happens to be coyotes’ chasing down and devouring neighborhood cats.

I fear that Marlin and Taco many be the latest feline victims.

According to missing notices places around our neighborhood Marlin is “lost” and Taco is “on the lam.”

Let’s hope so.

But Mike Sallee, who lives near Robert Gray Middle School, has seen families of coyotes emerging from the forested ravine behind the school. It happens that the missing cat postings define the area around the ravine. And recently, Sallee reports, a horrified group neighbors discovered the remains of a half eaten cat near the ravine.

Moreover, a few months back, I reported here that I spotted a coyote crossing our street around 11 p.m. at a place that happens to be an extension of the draw that feeds the ravine.

Portlanders pride themselves on this city’s being “weird,” but Portland is both weird and wild. Forest Park and its adjacent natural parks provide a corridor of more than 10 miles of wilderness. Elk have been spotted in our neighborhood. Eagles soar above us. Raccoons, of course, scuttle about in the night. I recently saw one disappear into a concrete road culvert fifty yards from my house.

Marlin and Taco may have placed themselves at the dangerous intersection between their laid-back domestication and the wilderness that surrounds us.

And I must confess, as I write this, our own cat, Izzy, persists in (no, insists on) exploring the same wilderness. Fortunately we live at some distance from the ravine. But is it a safe distance?

We bring Iz in before dusk and let him out after dawn. So far he has not gone “lost” or “on the lam.”

So far ….

I’d rather write about typewriters.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home