'Raising Dragons' Editor's note: A Baltimore author writes of a farmer's young daughter who shares her adventures with a dragon she raises from infancy.


A loud noise broke the stillness of the night. Crack! It was louder than one hundred firecrackers on the Fourth of July. CRACK! I heard it again, this time louder than before. It was coming from Miller's cave. At the first hint of dawn, I headed toward that sound.

There in the corner of the cave, where I'd left it, was the egg. And pushing its way out, like I've seen so many baby chicks do, was a tiny dragon poking through that shell with its snout.

It was love at first sight.

"Hey there, li'l feller, welcome to the world," I sang, soft and low. As I stroked his nose, a sweet little purring whimper came from him. As I touched skin to scale, I knew I was his girl and he was my dragon. I named him Hank.

He was an awesome thing. Growing to be as big as the barn from tail to snout. Hank was very clumsy when his wings came in. But once he learned how to use them, we'd go flying, mostly at night.

Up until then I had been afraid of the dark. The shadows and muffled noises and the complete quiet stillness always seemed to be waiting and watching me. I had seen our farm from up in my tree perch. But Hank showed me my world from on high, the way a cloud or a bird or a star just might be seeing me. Up there I saw things for what they were. And it was just grand!

Pa was the first one to notice what he called a strangeness happening around our farm. One morning with Samson, our mule, hitched for work, Pa set out to plow the fields. But all the work had been done. The ground was turned over and seeds had been sown. Pa was plumb flabbergasted!

Hank and I tended the crops, too. We pulled weeds and kept varmints away. And Hank even got me to school before the first bell.

Even after all the good he'd done, Ma still didn't want any part of Hank. But when a hot spell hit, her tomatoes began to dry out. Hank hovered above them, fanning away the heat. He saved just about every last one of them. Ma didn't admit it, but she felt beholden to Hank. She began fixing fancy gourmet meals just for him -- eel potpies, frog-leg pudding, and a fish-and-insect stew that Hank just loved.

Day by day Hank was getting bigger. Ma was uneasy about Hank's fire-breathing breath.

Pa paced with worry about all the corn Hank and I planted. There was corn growing everywhere. Ma cooked as much of it as she could, but there was too much. Just when it seemed like the corn would swallow up our farm, Hank grabbed Pa's shovel and dug a wide trench around the cornfield. Then he blew on it with his hot breath.

"What in tarnation?" Pa screamed. Ma ran out of the house carrying a bucket of water. But it was too late. The whole field was ablaze. We couldn't believe our ears -- POP! POP! Pop, Pop! POP! -- or our eyes.

Hank was making popcorn. It took an entire week to salt and bag it. We sold it all -- at a profit. It was the first dragon-popped popcorn anybody ever saw or tasted. Oh, it was real good, too.

Excerpted from RAISING DRAGONS. Text copyright 1998 by Jerdine Nolen. Illustrations copyright 1998 by Elise Primavera. Published by Harcourt Brace & Company.

Pub Date: 6/21/98

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