by Don Goodman
Summer of the Dragon is as collection of essays that afford the reader entry into the mind of a naturalist. This is a realm where a toad is valuable enough to purloin as a childhood treasure; where the recipient of an impending snake bite does not yank back his hand but rather holds it perfectly still to avoid ripping out some of the serpent's delicate teeth and potentially inflicting an oral infection. It describes the extremes to which zoologists will go to procure the perfect museum specimen, including leaping from the driver's seat of a moving vehicle and disappearing into the woods in pursuit of a squirrel and then using a toothbrush to make sure every hair is in place on the final stuffed specimen. The title---Summer of the Dragon---derives from the book's seminal chapter of the same name that describes an alligator attack that cost Goodman his right arm. The mostly humorous essays describe a lifetime of interactions with animals and plants.
The trials and misadventures of student days at the University of Florida---including meddling landladies and battles with cows and chickens for dominion over the backyard garden are described in tales that are often "laugh out loud" funny. Also in the mix are accounts of some of Florida's most colorful eccentrics, like the pothead who made a bid for the governorship of Florida---or thought he did---and The Wicked Witch of West Gainesville. The book's concluding chapters lament the ongoing collapse of the earth's ecological systems and plead for a long overdue change in course to insure that our children don't inherit a world in ruins. They detail the necessity of amending long and dearly held social and religious values to achieve such a goal and the consequences of failure.
Goodman is an accomplished writer whose style has been compared with that of his mentor, naturalist Dr. Archie Carr, Jr. He has been featured on National Geographic Society television specials and in Esquire magazine, among others, and his book was most recently---and glowingly---reviewed by columnist Jeffrey Klinkenberg in the August 3 St. Petersburg Times.