The story of Anna Symington — The Dragon Boat Legend has been voted the winner of our #ShareALegend storytelling contest. Read more.
Anna Symington — The Dragon Boat Legend
“It is an honor to Share A Legend of Anna Symington. Anna, is not only someone I admire for her strength, intelligence and tenacity but as a person determined to make a difference. While others spend time talking about their dreams, Anna quietly plans how to achieve hers.”
— Donna P Salo
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Her own personal history, could make anyone choose to just sit back. However, Anna takes her life experience as a breast cancer survivor to fuel her chosen pursuits. For the past few years, Anna has been instrumental in working with a national girl’s organization, Girls Inc., and the University of Massachusetts to place high school girls, during the summer, in research laboratories to gain an experience in science.
The focus is to investigate the chemical components found in cosmetics and the correlation of using these chemicals in products long term and the increased risk of cancer in later years. Not only did this experience enlighten these young girls to new life possibilities, but this year, under Anna’s tutelage, the girls produced an educational video for their peers, by teens for teens, that has been viewed at a national level.
What makes Anna more unique, is that you can call her a dragon! Not the mythical, costumed type but as the lead stroke in the fastest growing competitive team sport of dragon boating. To sit and paddle next to Anna is a gift. She has an uncanny knack of ‘feeling’ the paddling cadence of nineteen of her fellow breast cancer survivors and supporters sitting behind her so that she can adjust the race paddling pace accordingly. With her at the bow, our team has won many race medals. But it is our hand-made shoulder heat packs, crafted to resemble baby dragons, made exclusively by a group of breast cancer survivors, including Anna, and given to a local pediatric oncology unit, that sparks Anna’s infectious smile. Prior to the commencement of months of arduous chemotherapy, each child is given their own baby dragon; that once warmed, not only comforts the child, but reminds the child to feel the heat and power of being a fearless dragon.
This past summer, Anna was invited to paddle in the prestigious International Breast Cancer Competition in Florence, Italy. With 129 teams from over 17 nations, Anna was chosen to sit in the first seat to stroke with a team from Burlington Vermont. I was captivated by the pictures of thousands of survivors using their inner dragon power to fearlessly paddle to the finish line. My friend, my mentor and role model to so many young girls was among them – smiling ear to ear.
I can go on and on about Anna’s current achievements, but I am most excited about her future goals. She is harnessing what she’s learned from her dragon boat experience; the focus of healing and getting stronger, and working as a unit with her team mates to make a dragon boat fly – toward development of a military veteran’s dragon boat team. She believes the veterans would benefit immensely from this experience. I have no doubt Anna will work relentlessly to create a dragon boat team exclusively for military veterans. It hasn’t been done yet, but then again, a dragon IS fearless in its pursuits. That she is.
It’s not too late to win
Although there could be only one winner of our first #ShareALegend contest, you can still submit a legend for a chance to win Dragon’s Milk swag or be shared on Dragon’s Milk social channels.
See our other legend finalists
Without a doubt we believe our other finalists told some of the finest legendary tales. We hope you pause and take a savored moment to enjoy these stories- perhaps with a Dragon’s Milk in hand.
A lot of people can relate
I was ten years old the day my father and I had an argument. “You’re not my real dad” came out of my mouth before I could stop from yelling the hateful words. He was my dad—even though I was adopted and he was not my DNA, he was still my dad. He stared at the ground for what seemed like forever and then said, “Follow me.”
I cried and kicked rocks as we walked north on Eagle Road, not knowing where we were going. I said I was sorry at least a million times but he never responded. We arrived at Day and Dairy, about a half a mile from our home. We walked down the lane to the old farmhouse where old man Nixon lived with his wife and 2 kids.
My dad knocked on the screen door and told me to wait outside until he was finished speaking to Nixon. About twenty minutes passed before the two of them came outside. My dad knelt down in front of me as he handed me a pair of leather work gloves. “Son,” he said, “Mr. Nixon has agreed to put you to work here on the dairy.” I could feel more tears coming. “You will come to work before school, after school and then home for bed. You will work during summer breaks with Nixon setting the hours.” I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner there for the next 7 years. I basically had a second family while I was working there.
Years later my wife and I were going to start a family. My wife asked me if I would be willing to look into finding my biological parents so we would know what if any medical issues our children may have. Reluctantly, I agreed, but my parents were my parents. They raised me. They changed my diapers, fed me, clothed me and provided me with everything I needed. But since she asked I agreed.
It took only about a week to find my birth mother. The man with the State slipped up and said that 5 families with the same last name as her live at the same address in a town 30 miles away. I looked through the phone book and called the first number. After hearing my request the woman on the phone said that it sound like her uncle in the same town I lived. She said to look up the Sr., and that the Jr. was his son. So, I found his number and called.
A woman answered the phone and I asked her if she knew anyone in her family that had given up a baby boy for adoption on my birthday. She paused and said yes. Then she asked if I would hold on. I could hear 3 or 4 woman talking excitedly until one got on the phone and said, “I gave up a boy for adoption on that day.” She then asked if we could meet. Without ever telling her my name I agreed to meet her that evening. She said, “I live at Day and Night Dairy off of Eagle road in the town over. Do you think you can find it?” she asked. My heart was beating wildly as I said yes and that I would be there by 6.
When I told my wife what had happened she couldn’t believe it. We drove out to the Dairy in the truck that old man Nixon had given me for graduation. I hadn’t been back since, so him seeing the truck all restored would be a reason to show up unannounced. We drove down the dirt driveway and saw that they had guests over.
When I got out, everyone greeted me as the kid that worked there all those summers. Mrs. Nixon gave me a warm hug not knowing she was hugging the boy she gave up. We spent 30 minutes catching up and then my wife told me to go stand by an old man. She whispered in my ear that it had to be my grandfather because he looked just like me. I introduced myself to him and made small talk. He kept asking when the little bastard was showing up. I asked who? He said that his daughter gave up a boy for adoption and that he was coming there. Just then Mrs. Nixon came over and stared at me . Then she stared at her dad. Well, then she fainted.
My Grandfather, Merle Butler
This story, the happening of it, only really lasts for a few seconds but it has grown in my memory into a symbol for all the things my grandfather ever did for me.
This was probably 1999 or so. I was going through my first, devastating round of chemotherapy for Ewing’s sarcoma bone cancer. As such, I was dependent upon others for transportation because usually getting there and definitely coming back, I would be absolutely sick and pushed to the brink of death. They were trying to kill the cancer before it could kill me, of course, but being tethered to a bag of near-fatal poison that you get to take home with you is never a pleasant prospect.
So. Drugged up and strung out, mangled leg stuck straight out in a lime-green cast, I was in the back of my grandfather’s boat. Well, car, but it was one of those land boats, big piece of Detroit steel, probably leftover from the 80s. Sitting sideways and strapped in unusual fashion, as there was no sitting straight with the leg. Granddad is at the wheel, big gnarled mechanic’s knuckles navigating us through the mean streets of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He’s probably already in his late 70s at this point, possibly older.
I see him perk up and look ahead down the road as a line of cars queue up for a stop sign. I hear the brake pedal flap against the floorboards again and again, but we keep coasting ahead at a pleasant forty miles an hour. he half turns to me, gives a faint shrug (the ‘what ya gonna do’), and says something obvious like, “We’re going to hit those cars.”
He turns back to look at our impending doom, and I see him plotting calculations in the air between the cars, the nearby curb, a fire hydrant, and a chainlink fence. Apparently deciding that the fence is composed of less metal than the other obstacles, he nods and barks “Hold on!”. Stomach dropping into a pit, I obey.
We slalom around the rear car of the pack and hop the curb. You could probably squeeze two sheets of paper on either side of us but not three, as we thread the needle between the hydrant and the fence to cut the corner.
We slam back to ground level around the corner and, momentum spent, eventually creak to a stop. “I’m sorry about that,” he pants. “Granddad,” I solemnly hope and pray I had the sense to tell him, “Don’t be sorry. That was awesome.”
Come to find out later on–only in his obituary!–that not only had he been a mechanic in the Army Air Corps back in WWII, he had also gone on bombing runs over North Africa in the same planes he used to patch back together. I never got the full story on that, but I was certainly proud and lucky to have gone on one more run with the man. Granddad has long since slipped the surly bonds of earth, but what a ride.
Colt Sebastian Taylor
This legend is about how, one evening, ended up being the dealer for a Texas Hold’em game for a bunch of Fortune 500 CEOs at a conference.
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It began with a complete lack of supervision at my previous job. When no one was paying attention, I would film demonstration videos of the products we sold and would place them on our corporate website. No one seemed to notice and none of the executives knew I was doing this. Eventually, these videos found their way into the hands of a local newscaster who hired me for a few months to wander around Philadelphia interviewing people about a variety of subjects. These segments would show up on local TV on the weekends.
As I continued to do this and attend business conferences, my social media following grew and grew. Eventually, a business conference came to me and said: “Colt, you need to come to our conference!”
I explained that I couldn’t afford to come and that my bosses had no idea what I was doing. They, however, would not take no for an answer and instead flew me out and put me up into a hotel on their dime, in exchange for me hanging out at the conference and conducting some interviews. Which I gladly did.
One evening, after the conference day ended, I was at a bar waiting for a magician. (Yes, I hang out with a magician at these conferences but that is another story for another time.) While waiting, a person tapped me on the back and told me to come with them to another party. I said I wasn’t invited, but they insisted that I come. After taking a shot of what I assume now was paint thinner, I went to this first party and was warmly received. While there, networking, someone else tapped me on the shoulder.
He explained to me that he wanted to impress these two girls by taking them to a super exclusive party but he didn’t have an invite for it. He thought by bringing me we could get into the party. I said, “Valhalla awaits, let’s do it.”
We go to this next party and sure enough, they won’t let him in. But as soon as I poke my head in someone in the back yells, “That’s Colt Sebastian Taylor, get him in here!” I said that I couldn’t come in unless my friends came. Needless to say, all four of us went in. I went around getting some great swag for my collection and came across a bottle of 15-year-old whiskey. I asked whose it was and someone else yelled, “A glass of it belongs to you Colt!”
The evening was going well.
A bit later, the door swung open and this girl in a red dress with bright red lipstick came in grabbed me by the arm and yanked me out of the room yelling, “We need you at a poker game!”
So I went higher up onto the hotel where this very exclusive poker game among CEO’s was taking place. They needed a dealer but none of the hosts knew how to play and they figured Colt Sebastian Taylor did. They tracked me down on social media and figured out where I was and brought me here.
It turns out I do know how to deal Texas Hold Em. So we play, some money is exchanged. Out on the balcony, I see the two hosts are talking to two clients. These two clients “bros” are really into the two hosts. The two hosts, not so much. Once the game wraps up, I pour myself a drink and shuffle out and completely mess up their flirting attempts to the point where they leave angry at me.
I mention that it looked like they needed the assistance, the two hosts thanked me and gave me a custom poker set they had made for the conference. I poured myself one more drinks, said pleasant good night to my hosts, and retired for the evening.
I had to be up in 3 hours for the next conference day.
And that my friends, is my Legend.
Myself, my partners, and a strange creature
We’ve all come to sit around this table and tell a tale. The one I bring to share may sound like fantasy, but I swear on my life and the honor of my ancestors that mine is a stone cold truth. So settle in, take a hearty swig of your brew- for this story is chilling- and let me set the scene:
I sat in the driver’s seat of our hatchback, pushing the little machine across the high desert of Utah’s Goblin National Park. With my girlfriends Quinn and Ivory, I was driving cross country from New York to Las Vegas for a business conference. Other than for bathroom breaks, the girls and I hadn’t stopped once, trying to see how quickly we could make it across the states. As the girls napped, I missed the signs saying that there wouldn’t be gas for a hundred miles, and as the sun began to set we ran out of fuel and found ourselves stranded in the park.
Now I don’t know how much you know about Goblin National Park, but the landscape is bizarre and alien, and you feel like you’re walking around on Mars, if Mars had plant life. After a half hour making calls for help, with not much sunlight left, a Utah sheriff stopped into the lot and agreed to take the girls to the nearest gas station and bring them back while I sat with the car.
After about ten minutes, knowing I’d be here for another two hours at least and with the heat inside the car dissipating as nighttime in the high desert brought a bitter chill with it, I decided to take a look around. I walked out about a mile into the wilderness and that’s where our tale starts to become as bizarre as the landscape of the park…
In the distance, I heard voices. I couldn’t make out what they were saying because it was clearly not English or Spanish, but it was people for sure. In my mind, I drew the conclusion it was some folks camping. Maybe they’d have a fire? Heck, maybe they’d have some water to share, as the girls took our last bottle with them. On the other hand, there were no other vehicles in the parking area, and theres was no campfire smoke coming from the direction of the voices. I pressed on regardless, my curiosity dispelling any unease about approaching strangers in the wilderness. As I got closer to the voices, the stranger things became. Through the unintelligible speech I could hear interrupting spurts of hyena-like laughing- made only more unsettling by the myriad of other animal noises- hissing, screeching, growling.
I’m not easily shaken, but the sounds had my adrenaline screaming in my veins. Every cell of my body stood electrified. My unquenchable curiosity, as always, dispelled my unease and drove me forward. At this point I was very confused, my body deep in fight or flight, yet I was determined to see what was going on. Then I finally saw him. There was just one man, his back to me, crouched between some boulders. He stood and turned to me, but there was something terribly wrong.
I’ve seen some crazy things on this Earth, but again I remind you that I swear to the truth of this tale on my life. What I saw that day chilled me to the bone, and thinking about his face still makes my blood run cold.
He stood, still hunched, wearing tattered and filthy scraps of clothing. His arms were too long, dipping below his crouched knees, clumps of thick hair on his elbows and shoulders. His hairy face was grotesque, elongated like a dog snout, and his mouth had this awful stitching up his cheeks. It was as if he sewed a mask to himself and it became his living face. He growled, burst into that awful hyena laughter, and started Loping towards me.
I ran like hell, desperate to grab my Kabar from my go-bag to protect myself. It followed. Lithe on its feet, zig zagging between boulders and plants with a cacophony of twisted animal noised and sick inhuman laughter. A quarter mile from the parking lot I came into a clearing, keeping this horrible thing in my eyesight and backing up to the car to get my knife. It stepped its foot out into the clearing and I heard a thick grunt disturb the air behind me. As i turned, terrified I’d come face to face with another one of these non-human beasts, my eyes fell upon an elk; A single, beautiful elk, just feet away from me, its attention focused on the creature. With the car now in my eyesight, I retreated to grab my knife and my bag of protective totems. The creature gave one last shriek and began to shuffle off into the wilderness again. The elk lingered a few minutes more before walking off and disappearing to the East.
The sheriff returned with the girls and gas and we continue to Las Vegas. I relay the tale of my time in the park to the girls and they only take it as a fantastical story. “Maybe you were dreaming?” I was certainly not. To make things even stranger, as we checked into our hotel and grabbed a drink at the bar, a Navajo man approached us and asked, “Tonight, one of you had a run in with evil. Which one of you met a skin walker today?” He proceeded to describe the creature and I almost dropped my drink, the girls equally stunned. He tells us the elk is a protector of man, and that I was lucky to have it bless me. The girls found themselves believers.
On my life, I had a run in with a Skin Walker in Utah’s Goblin National Park. Polygraph me if you must, because this story is fact. This world is huge, and in it exist dark and terrible and wondrous things that we might never be able to understand. If you’re ever in Goblin National park after dark, keep your eyes and ears open- and hope the elk have their watchful eyes on you, just in case you have a run in with the nightmare that stalks those hills.