I Have Dragons In My Family

“I Have Dragons In My Family!”

“As I pondered, weak and weary,
o’er many a quaint and ancient volume
of forgotten lore . . .”

Or, roughly translated:
I write technical manuals,
and was getting really ticked off with the whole bit!

So I decided to do some mowing.

After months of actual drought that had left our house paddock a virtual dust bowl, we had taken on over a week of steady rain. The grass was growing like crazy and had to be kept under control to reduce the fire hazard. This barren land of ours in Australia recovers like you would not believe when given a drink!

Mowing is a soul destroying job as you constantly orbit an acre or so and it is both difficult to keep the mind in check, and control of the machine at the same time, but at least it gets you intimately back in touch with where you live. As I circulated, I came across an infant Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) about 8″ (20 cm) long. I did not think much of it, other than the pleasure of seeing one again.

The Bearded Dragon is quite a large Australian lizard. The books say they grow to 30 cm (about a foot) but we have had specimens twice that length in our hands. They do get quite large and, as you would expect from the name, look quite formidable even though they are totally harmless. They could give you a reasonable nip if you stirred them up as they have lots of sharp teeth, but generally they are quite placid and easily handled if you have cause to do so.

We have had a number of these Dragons in care for one reason or another and have not had a failure with any of them – but all have been released around our home, so we are accustomed to seeing one now and then. We live in the country and it would appear that some of our successes decided not to move on at release but set up home right where they were.

We also now have a very active bat population of several species. Various parrots linger on, our dam has its resident Snake Tortoises (one of which I examined recently and its once badly cracked shell was totally healed), and our resident population of Magpies. Butcher Birds and Peewits tolerate constant additions to ‘their’ territory (as well they should because they also came from our cages – or, at least, their parents did!). But now it appeared the Dragons thought the situation favourable as well.

As I orbited on the mower a sibling came out to join the first Dragon. They were attracted by what I was stirring up from the mowing and enjoying an easy feed in the late afternoon sunlight.

Then the penny dropped.

In the previous autumn and early winter, when I had been cleaning up the ground, there had been a couple of large Dragons about and hanging around one of our large Silky Oak trees. I gave them little thought and simply avoided them, having to stop the mower now and then to shoo them into better cover, as they showed no fear of me or the mower.

It seems like the blood ran a bit hot for a cold blooded creature and, this spring, I reckon I was looking at the results. They had moved a short distance from where the parents used to hang out but were close to a pile of dead wood, that I will now not burn as I intended to. The whole scene was quite charming.

I took my wife, Kay, out to show her the new family that had obviously trusted us enough to move in with us. Kay, of course, was entranced and I realised I had made the usual male blunder. We have 3.5 cats, two extremely large German Shepherds, flocks of wild birds who think we owe them a living.

“Hello again, Mum – I’m hungry.”

And everything is carnivorous! So are the Dragons!

Lean mincemeat (it has to be lean of course) is going out of sight pricewise and there was very little chance that I would ever get rich and famous, but the former is now sealed in doom!

But damn! Try and put a quality on life and a totally wild creature that trusts you! Some things you just cannot put a price on – and Dragons do eat a lot of grasshoppers, as our bats eat a lot of nasty biting insects. So lose a little but win a lot – in so many ways.

OK, I have to complain, it is a male trait, but I would not really want it any other way.

Now, do you have any Dragons in your family?

– Tony Hayes
Toogoolawah, Queensland, Australia.

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