The pen-and-ink sketch spiked to my bulletin board shows a fierce fire-breathing dragon seated under a shade tree, medieval castle in the background, picking his teeth with a lance that once belonged to the unfortunate knight-errant he has just devoured. Pieces of the knight’s once-shining armor, bent and broken, are scattered about the premises – helmet here, chain mail breast plate there, assorted hinges, nuts and bolts elsewhere.
The caption under the sketch, done in elegant old-English script, reads, “Sometimes the Dragon Wins.”
Indeed, sometimes she does. No one knows that better than Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama after rival Hillary Clinton popped his once seemingly puncture-proof Obama-mania bubble by winning the Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island primaries Tuesday. I will resist the urge to send my treasured sketch to the Obama campaign after drawing a “Hillary for President” campaign button on the chest of the sated dragon.
Sometimes the game is not over until it’s over and the dragon doesn’t win, no matter how ferocious he may seem at the start of the jousting. When Mars Hill’s well-coached and undefeated Central Aroostook High School boys basketball team met Richmond for the state Class D championship at the Augusta Civic Center earlier this week, it was a case of David – minus his slingshot – versus Goliath, Richmond packing a robust height and size advantage.
With under 10 seconds remaining in the game, Central Aroostook trailing by one point and in possession of the ball, it seemed to me that the County boys had the Richmond guys right where they wanted them. After a timeout for coach Tim Brewer to set things up, 5-foot-7 guard Manny Martinez – the smallest dragon slayer on the floor – got the ball and drove to the basket full-tilt toward formidable 6-foot-10 Richmond center Marc Zaharchuk, who stood between him and everlasting fame in the chronicles of the rich Mars Hill basketball tradition.
Martinez lofted a soft shot over the outstretched arms of Zaharchuk, watching while sprawled on the floor as the ball dropped through the hoop for a one-point Central Aroostook win with only eight-tenths of a second remaining on the game clock. If such an improbable ending had been written into some Hollywood movie script, critics would have panned it as being too over-the-top dramatic and far-fetched. Still, when I saw that play unfold as I watched on television I almost knew what was about to happen, and I briefly felt sorry for the big kid.
It may not have been the proverbial shot heard around the world. But it certainly was one heard all the way back in The County and parts of Canada beyond. A fitting end to a perfect 22-0 season for Central Aroostook High School, it was an example of why high school basketball in Maine is the swizzle stick that stirs the hot toddy during eternal winter.
Sometimes the dragon wins the battle. Sometimes he loses. And sometimes he may think he has won, but soon gets disabused of the notion by an adversary who refuses to give in.
I suspect that the latter scenario may well be in play in this potentially record-setting Winter From Hell which, here in the northern climes, began shortly after Halloween and still has a month to go.
Considering that in many communities there is little space left in which to deposit the snow that refuses to quit falling – more than 13 feet of it to date in my neck of the woods, and another batch due today, according to TV Weather Guy – some people might say that the dragon won this skirmish long ago. Throw in the towel, they advise, and start planning for next winter.
After all, gasoline and heating oil costs are at record highs, municipal and homeowners’ snow removal budgets are taking major hits, some food banks are running nearly on empty, roofs of homes and business establishments are in danger of caving in, frost heaves and potholes have arrived early, the weather is benign one day and four clapboards below zero on the next and the snowbanks lining many rural roads are so high that driving the roads can become a claustrophobic misadventure.
But if we who are so fortunate to live in this great four-season state year-round know anything, it is that the long climb over March Hill on the way to springtime’s blessed relief is often plagued by such inconveniences. We’ve weathered such petty aggravations before, and Mother Nature has taught us that these, too, shall pass if we will but be of good cheer.
Granted, sometimes the dragon wins. But only if we let him.
BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. Readers may e-mail him at