5:30 a.m. – I may be 16 now but haven’t changed much from the 8-year-old girl who chased frogs and climbed trees. The only difference is that now I’ve got my notebooks, field guides, and camera stashed in the backpack I carry everywhere I go. Today, we’re supposed to be leaving, and Mom will want me to help pack. An endlessly boring chore and near impossible because everything we brought never seems to fit back in the packs they came in.
But yesterday, I saw a dragon. A real-to-goodness dragon!
No way am I leaving without cataloguing it in my journal!
So before sunrise, I snuck out of camp, a panther slinking in the darkness, and found a tree to hide in, camera around my neck, notebook clutched against my chest. Goosebumps tiptoeing over my skin, I shiver in the mountain air.
The sun creeps above the mountains, a rosy shade against the dark spikes blocking the view.
And a green scaly nose peers out from the vines hanging down over the hole in the riverbank.
6:15 a.m. – The dragon disappeared below the surface of the water, and I waited. And waited. I had been thinking about the granola bar in my pack when the dragon returned. Perching on a rock in the middle of the river, her long tail held high, she slashed a claw through the water. With a swish and a splash, she caught a fish and slurped it down—raw and wiggling and slimy as algae.
I wasn’t really hungry anymore.
While she stood on the rock, I could see her green underside. No male genitalia could be seen.
(Note to self: Research male and female organs in known species of reptile.)
6:35 a.m. – The dragon caught two more fish and carried them back to her den. I thought I heard mewling noises, but then maybe that was wishful thinking.
7:03 a.m. – The dragon crept out of her hole with a little brown fuzz ball. Compared to her, it was so tiny! No crests on its head and instead of scales, it had feathers. Feathers!
Mother dragon floated on her back in the water, baby dragon on her belly. Baby clung to her, and when the water lapped against its feet, it mewled like a kitten. Mommy dragon licked it with her tongue. It seemed to calm but still hated the water.
8:23 a.m. – B.D. (baby dragon) actually swam a few feet. M.D. (mother dragon) made a yipping sound much like a fox bark. I think she was laughing.
But then there was the sound of raucous laughter and feet stomping. M.D and B.D. disappeared under the water’s surface, only to appear next to their den a few minutes later.
Just in time to climb inside before five hunters stepped out onto the pond’s bank, orange caps, camouflage coats, rifles and a six pack in each hand.
“So where did you see this thing again, Bob? Sure you didn’t imagine the whole thing?”
“It was right here. At least six feet long.”