The Dragon Hunter: The Sequel

While vacationing at Corolla, one of the northern barrier islands running parallel and inadvertently a buffer to the head butting waves of the Atlantic Ocean of the North Carolina eastern shores, I seredepitously happen onto a Wildlife Program being sponsored by the Outer Banks Center For Wildlife Education to introduce munchkins, you know, lil’ people; more specifically, Jackson, my grandson to the engrossing bulbous eyed, shimmering wing, aeronaut gymnast, the pond denizen dragonfly, aka “The Dragon”. In a prior post   I wrote about an extended conversation that Jackson and I had; where he intimated, his enthrallment with the mythical reptile with wings and confided that his source for everything dragon was the furry stuffed lion, steadfast companion, Tigie, the allege erudite drangonologist. Another dubious source, that validates the chimerical sauropodian is the ancient text, the Bible, whose passages skirts facts with allegorical life lessons, but with regards to the scaly, fire breather conflates and confounds the moniker to Satan, leviathan (a sea monster/ whale); and then, in Rev 12:1-17, describes a hedious mutant as a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems—not really shore, what the life lesson is in this, best interpreted as a rendition of a delusional fantasy, but  who am I to  judge? My intent was to naturalize the fabled dragon to an authenticate dragon, and the four-winged, pond predator insect—common vernacular, a dragonfly, appeared to fit the bill.

The vicissitude dragon discussion from superstition to substative carbon crafted critters with Jack was as effortless as a dragonfly’s arerial, on a dime, 90 degree banking turn off a gentle breeze that rustles cattails and propels surface pond ripples. The dictum by Louis Pasteur, “Fortune favors the prepared mind”, seemed applicable to Jack, who appeared to be in search of a reality handle for the drangon nomenclature.

When we arrived at the Outer Banks Center For Wildlife Education, we were meet by a looming carnivorous Ursidian; Jackson was immediately raptured by the big, stuffed teddy bear—a far cry cut above the Walmart greeter. The Center’s foyer was staged with an array of skeletons of wetland denizens; an impressive complete bone rack was displayed in a case of a porpoise, which was the impetus of a machine gun of run on queries from Jackson. Propitiously, Sarah, the dragonfly guide appeared, whose presence was a Kevlar vest against the strafing interrogation. Mind you, Jackson’s questions were cogently formated, but I had no clue, and Sarah saved me from the embarrassing reply of, “I don’t know”.

Sarah initiated the class with basic anatomy, which is an entomological taxonomist’s roadmap to the vernacular and latinized nomenclature of the pond patrolling predators. All animals and plants have a first and last name,  its latinized as Genus and species, which came into play in 1753 with Species plantarum for flora and Sytema naturae for animals in 1758 by the polymath Swede, Carl Linnaeus. The biography, Linnaeus Nature and Nation, Lisbet Koerner, 1999, succintinly stipulated the framing of systematics, “Linnaeus invented a binomial nomenclature, designating, each species of flora and fauna by a two-word code consisting of the name of its genus anda species epithet. As suggested by his name for this indexical practice, nomina trivialia, he himself only understood the importance of it toward the end of his life. Nonetheless, his species labels continue to this day to answer to the practical needs of the wider scientific community.”——— And, to sway the tenacious skeptic, still, the banter between Alice and the gnat, Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll, aka, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1871, on the eminence of names was emphasized: “What’s the use of their having names,”the gnat said,”if they won’t answer to them?” “No use to them,” said Alice; “but it’s useful to the people that name them, I suppose, If not, why do things have names at all?”—-eventually, as Alice and the gnat corroborated about the different insects and their sobriquets, there was reference to the ‘subject’ winged hexapod, the dragonfly, “And there’s the Dragon-fly.” “Look on the branch above your head,” said the Gnat, “and there you’ll find a Snap-dragon-fly. Its body is made of plum-pudding, its wings of holly-leaves, and its head is a raisin burning in brandy.” “And what does it live on?” Alice asked, as before. “Frumenty and mince-pie,” the Gnat replied; “and it makes its nest in a Christmas-box.” I much prefer Lewis Carroll’s rendition of the “dragon”-fly to John’s of Patmos, the putative author, of Revelation; one is scrumptious the other is scary.

More tedium about systematics; an eye glass-over evoker, but for people who do relish the fastidiousness of orderly compartmentalization our revered dragon belongs to the Class: Insecta; Order: Odanata ; Suborder Anisoptera; not to be conflated  with the other suborder, Zygoptera the damseflies—are you nodding off yet, back to Jack…

After the preamble orientation of what we were going to be swinging a net at, Jack was handed the preeminent tool of all serious entomologist: the net, which was attached to a long pole to facilitate reach. Jack beamed a Cheshire Cat smile. There was a learning curve to the adroit swing of the net, which  Jack was a quick study, but only after transitioning through the experimental phase of an erratic swirling, swooshing net that emulated a windmill, and the mercilessly beating of bushes into piles of crumpled leaves, where once a dragonfly perched. Once mastered, his swing was surgically precise netting many dragonflies, notably the pondhawk; smile of success was blinding: The student became the master. Sarah’s job was done, she had seeded an interest in the natural world via the dragon.