Lions Park in Duncanville, Texas, to be more precise. The dragon fly appears to me to be Neurothemis tullia, a Pied Paddy Skimmer, though I believe that is considered an Asian species. [But see note at the end of the post.]
Closely related? An exotic introduced to Texas? Here we had cotton fields, not rice paddies. The wings look like those of a Pied Paddy Skimmer, but most of the photos I’ve found show a black body, and this one is definitely gray. Hmmmm.
Dragon flies look mean. As a very young child I was terrified of them, growing up on the banks of the Snake River in Idaho. My mother, a farm-raised girl, took me out for a walk among the diving, softly-humming aerobats, and explained they had no stingers, they ate other insects, and they seemed to like humans, if we’d watch them. As we watched, she held out her hand and a dragon fly landed, as if to say, “Hello! Listen to your mother. She knows us.”
Up Payson Canyon, in Utah, at Scout Lake I passed many early morning hours, and many noon siestas, in the reeds watching the dragon flies. When we were in our canoes or rowboats they’d fly at us like rockets, appearing to think they were torpedo planes, then fly up, or right or left, at the last possible second, to avoid colliding with our craft. Through July they’d fly tandem, mating. This intrigued Scouts, and delighted them beyond measure when the nature merit badge counselor explained they were having sex. Red ones, blue ones, yellow, brown and black ones. Big ones, little ones.
Shortly after we moved to Texas, we discovered that a swarm of dragon flies probably meant a local colony of fire ants was casting off females, to mate and start a new mound of exotic, stinging terror. The dragon flies would catch and eat the queens-to-be. I had to use a broom to shoo off a neighbor with a can of insecticide, trying to kill the dragon flies in their work to keep us safe and happy. “But they look so mean,” she explained.
Judge no book by its cover (except Jaws); judge no insect by its eye apparel, or human eye appeal.
Update: In comments below, Roused Bear wonders if this isn’t the Widow Skimmer, which is native to Texas. That would make a lot more sense, wouldn’t it? What do you think, Dear Reader: Widow Skimmer, Libellula luctuosa?