The Central Oregon Dragon

Throughout history and from regions all over the globe there are mythologies of the dragon. Although the various descriptions may differ slightly, the basic concept is always the same: serpentine in body, raptor-like head with wings capable of navigating flight and huge curved talons jutting out of scaly feet.

Just about every scholarly reference to dragons poses variations on the mystery associated to such an obviously similar symbol being so widespread, reaching as far back into human history as can be imagined.

Each culture ascribes some deeper meaning to the beast ranging from acting guardians of treasure to harbingers of evil. Many will relate the dragon with the story of King Arthur (Pendragon) whose shield features the grand and famous red dragon to symbolize the struggle between good and evil. The analogy I prefer is the one ascribing it as potential for personal power or the ability to overcome difficult situations (slaying or befriending the dragon). But no matter what or how you may think of the dragon, you’re not likely to think that you will run across one in real life. But would you be surprised to learn that there are real, live dragon-beasts flying freely and untamed about our skies, even today?

I came face-to-face with this very fact one summer afternoon while driving down a lonely Central Oregon by-way on one of those days that beg a person to be outdoors, soaking up the sun and reveling in nature. With only a few clouds in the sky and nothing to deter an afternoon’s adventure, I loaded my faithful companion Cysco into the car, and off we went to one of our favorite hiking haunts along the Crooked River.

The geology and landscape along the Crooked River of Central Oregon is nothing less than fantastic. Huge rocky cliffs rise high above the riverbed on either side of the road that follows the river as it snakes gracefully along the canyon floor. Undulating rocky outcroppings jut out of the cliff faces like imposing castle turrets from another century and a different country, one after another — making this a most likely place to encounter a medieval creature – if one was inclined to think on such things.

This particular day I was fully engaged in enjoying the drive, catching sight of all variety of wildlife along the way. About three-quarters of the way to our designated hiking destination the most amazing sight filled the sky overhead and drew my attention up and away from the road. A number of large birds boiled wildly about in the sky, the bright sun casting their bodies in silhouette – the birds jutted about in the air as if agitated by something in their midst. More than a little curious, I slowed down and pulled over to get a better look. The object of all this attention became immediately and amazingly apparent as something very unusual dawned on my vision.

Unmistakably, it was a dragon.

Having seen more than my share of dragon movies and having read an ample portion of mythology my brain readily registered ‘dragon’ — and for all intents and purposes that’s what floated on the air currents above where I stood next to my car in that canyon. I peered, unbelieving yet awestruck at this strange spectacle – a flying beast, something not seen or recorded by human eyes in recent history. I took note: long serpentine body, huge talons glistening in the sun, raptor-like head and wings like a huge bird of prey — certainly this was one big dragon posing a disturbance to local wildlife and setting my mind to fantasy. Just like in the movies, the body of the beast undulated back and forth in the sky, as if doing so somehow kept the creature buoyant and floating in the air.

Within a few seconds I came to my senses, realizing that this is after all ‘real life’ and not some Hollywood production. I strained once again to take a closer look. With no small amount of wonder, I realized that this must in fact be the same configuration of beast primitive people from all over the world have been seeing since time began, recording it as a mythological creature of fantastic proportion.

Upon closer inspection the ‘beast’ turned out to be nothing less than a large bird of prey, perhaps a hawk or golden eagle. Clutched in its talons an immense writhing snake struggled against its attacker, swinging wildly back and forth in an unsuccessful attempt to gain some advantage, and in the process win back its freedom. Though I don’t imagine it would have survived the plummet back to earth had it succeeded, one couldn’t blame it for trying.

What a vision the two of these primordial enemies made that early summer day – truly and epic struggle played out over my head in the bright blue sky. A sight I’ll not soon forget and one that clarifies the mystery of the origins of dragon stories in every culture on the planet. So, I recommend that you keep your eyes to the sky for sightings of the ordinary, and the not so ordinary. Remain attentive enough and perhaps you too will win a glimpse of rarest of rare creatures — the Central Oregon Dragon.