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A blood-red dragonfly poised on the leg of my blue slacks as I basked in late afternoon sunlight on a log by the pond's edge. He swiveled his head, mantis-like, then relaxed. At ease there, he procedded to chew like a cow, it seemed, on a cud. I proceede to study him. For his overall size he had a large head with a face-mask hiding a fierce looking pair of jaws, like two sharp hooks. Two enormous eyes blankly returned my gaze, though doubtless they missed nothing that might pass in the way of dragonfly priorities.

Each of his four gossamer wings sported a black blip, dashed precisely at the farthest upper tip. His six legs were splayed out, balancing the long body. On impulse, apparently, he jackknifed in order to maintain his purchase on the material covering my jackknifed knee. His thorax was brown, fat and furry. His black tail was pronged. Contrary to popular superstition, I knew there was no sting there. His "good name" was Anax junius.m His "bad name," devil's sewing needle,m was unearned. A harmless jawpinch was all he had for defense against humans. He might be capable of nipping off the end of his own body in a terrible need to escape, but this handsome creature wasn't about to sew up anyones's ears.

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How often I had watched him on leisurely summer days, darting over the pond's blue surface, legs held like small baskets to scoop up insects in midair. He ate as he flew, and was actually a good friend to campers and picnickers. Later I observed the female of the species, with small darting splashes dipping into the water to deposit eggs, one at a time, below the surface. Tough babies, those, needing only a few minutes topside before trying out new wings. Their ancestors had wingspreads of two feet, evidenced by fossils in rocks 250 million years ago.

My specimen was perfectly benign, as far as I was concerned. But then, so was I in his judgment, apparently. For he swiveled his dark red head and waggled his dark red posterior with calm curiosity, drinking in the late warmth so necessary to both of us. Rather like a woodpecker clinging to the bark of a tree, I thought, he latched to me. That tail-needle was just long enough to ballast those wide, perfectly balanced wings. Earlier I'd observed that he could fly in any direction, including backward. Did this accomplishment relate him to the hummingbird? I mused. Fine-vined and gauzy, those wings, clean, thin, rainbow- tinted. He seemed impervious to wind velocities that, measured by my gauge, would probably gust me to ribbons. No matter how poised he might seem to be, however, I felt that those compund eyes remained alert -- fot gnats, mosquitos or other tiny flying missiles that we consider pestiferous.

My tentative finger touch did not move him. He seemed quite comfortable as my guest, peacefully basking in colored light, extracting sustenance from the slanting sun and quiet air. Actually: who was whose guest?m When the bright warmth receded and I had to move on, I wondered where he'd spend the night. Perhaps -- cpuld it be? -- some faint brush of concern passed over his instinctive thinking apparatus as well. For my blood-red dragonfly, feeling the chill shadow of my hand, raised his tissue wings and effortlessly buzzed off.

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