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Keith Richard builds dragons while he looks around the world

  • Keith Richard uses a welding torch to work on his creations in the Quonset hut on his property in Pembroke on Friday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The mailbox creation on Keith Richard’s property in Pembroke on Friday, May 28, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Some of the welding creations Keith Richard has produced. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Keith Richard points to the eyes of one of the dragons he made out of parts he has from the old farm he grew up on in Pembroke. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Keith Richard points to the chains of one of the dragons he made out of parts he has from the old farm he grew up on in Pembroke. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Keith Richard on the old farm he grew up on in Pembroke. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Keith Richard in the Quonset hut where he creates his welding sculptures on his property in Pembroke on Friday, May 28, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 6/2/2021 5:13:32 PM

To Keith Richard, the legendary monsters lined up on each side of the narrow room make sense to him.

The world around him, however, does not.

The dragons have made sense since he started building them a few years ago. The way in which various scrap pieces of heavy machinery parts, fondue forks and serving trays fit together in harmony, all pieces with a purpose.

That’s what he does these days at his home in Pembroke. He’s a retired farmer who’s found a niche that came out of nowhere, and his stuff is really good. Very Detailed. His brother calls him an artist, but Richard says he’s an imaginationist.

He’s hard on himself, forever looking for ways to make the dragon breathe fire. “If it gets bad, I stop myself before I do anything else,” he said.

In other words, Richard adjusts and makes the proper changes until his dragon is a dragon. The kind of dragon he likes, which sometimes has wings, made from saws.

Adjusting to almost everything else Richard sees around him has been harder. Impossible, really.

He’s always been rebellious, a non-conformist, not simply to be different, but because he’s learned that the B.S. alarm he uses to size people up is dead on. At least most of the time.

It blares when he stands near politicians. He compares himself to the boy in The Sixth Sense. The kid saw dead people.

“I see empty people, and a lot of the time it’s in Washington,” Richard said. “It’s Easier for me to have a conversation with (my dragons). I try to be in society and I don’t fit in. Some friends talk to me and think I’m nuts.”

He’s 68. He could play Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, or Brooks from The Shawshank Redemption. He wore dusty, holey jeans that were as far from fashionable as Richard is to a cell phone.

He lost his girlfriend of 32 years in 2017, and he’s lost a close family member to addiction. He lives alone now and says he’s an introvert.

He refuses to connect any personal loss with his growing passion to build these mythical creatures. And he emphasizes that others have suffered much more than he ever did.

But with the attention needed to make his dragons come alive, there’s little doubt that his hobby dominates his thoughts, leaving no room for a lost loved one or a hypocritical politician.

“Relaxing,” Richard called it.

He has other interests. Don’t get him started on the connection between corporate greed and the Vietnam War. Or on military colonialism. He says he reads Socrates.

And he makes dragons, some weighing hundreds of pounds and including bulldozer and track chains. A friend showed him a crab made from two horseshoes, just a year or two ago, and he’s taken the art to a new level, welding and solders metals and plastic behind a mask, the sparks scattering like sparklers on steroids.

He may use saws for wings, lawn sprinklers for tails and screws inside elbow-shaped pipes for eyes. He searches for materials – junkyards, friends’ backyards – he believes might look good, add to the image of the scary, misunderstood dragon. Old rakes make great teeth.

He pointed to his newest dragon, a big one, unfinished, and said, “I got to find the right kind of chain to make legs for it. When I see the piece, I’ll know it.”

He had about 30 displayed in a long, enclosed extension on his house, with tables of dragons on each side, looking back at you as you walked to the end of the room.

He’s given away about 12. People have told him to sell his work, but he’s an old-schooler with no cellphone and a computer that shows Google and YouTube and nothing else. Build a website to advertise his work?

He wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot dragon.

“I do Google,” Richard said, “and that’s it.”

His conversation invariably moved from his stable of dragons to politics, the economy, equal justice under the law, war and more. It’s part of who he is, a Granite Stater who hates the spinning and lying we’re bombarded with on a daily basis.

He said the world has not made sense for 50 years. “The money that is thrown at stuff is amazing, and we still have racial problems,” he said.

Then he pointed to a dragon.

“I usually start with a piece of chain and make a backbone,” Richard said. “Or I get a couple of horseshoes and weld them together. I just don’t know what it’s going to be when I start.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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