About 11 years ago, Jim Vance’s grandson told him every forest needs a dragon. Not long after, one appeared in the rural Claflin resident’s shelterbelt.
How it got there wasn’t really a mystery. Vance wanted to build an airplane out of fiberglass and epoxy, but first he wanted some experience using the material. So he made a big green dragon head with an 8-foot long neck, tied the assembly to some pipes and hung it so it emerges from the trees. The “body” of the dragon appears to be hidden by the trees, but 30 feet away a serpentine “tail” emerges.
The mystery isn’t how Jim Vance got a dragon, but what’s become of it. Sometime between Friday and Sunday afternoon, the whole thing disappeared. Vance found tire tracks and two sets of boot prints in the muddy dirt, so he figures someone climbed the tree, cut the ropes, and stole the 50-pound sculpture from NE 150 Road.
He called the Barton County Sheriff’s Office on Monday and was transferred to a 911 dispatcher, who apparently didn’t know whether to believe him or not at first.
“She asked me, ‘Was the dragon still alive when they took it?’”
Vance said he has other pieces of homemade art, and the dragon has acquired some accessories over the years. For Valentine’s Day it sports a heart-shaped sign that says, “Be my lunch,” and in March there’s a green sign that says “St. Patrick loved dragons.” He goes all out at Halloween, and second graders from Claflin Grade School usually come out to see his displays.
Occasionally someone just driving the backroads will come upon the shelterbelt and unexpectedly discover the dragon. Vance can always tell, by the skid marks on the road.
But this week, the green dragon of NE 150 Road has disappeared. Anyone with information about its whereabouts can call Crime Stoppers. The telephone number is 620-792-1300, or 888-305-1300.