“THE CELEBRATED JUMPING FROG

 OF CALAVERAS COUNTY



                                         A purportedly true occurrence in the mining camps

                                         of California in the spring of 1849 that duplicates in

                                         basic facts a story entitled The Athenian and the Frog

                                         that is reported in classic Greek as having occurred two

                                         thousand years ago.


                                                   From: “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg”

by: MARK TWAIN, Harper & Brothers Publishers.


Well, thish-yer Smiley had rat-tarriers and chicken cocks, and tom-cats, and all of them kind of things, till you couldn’t rest, and you couldn’t fetch nothing for him to bet on but he’d match you. He ketched a frog one day, and took him home, and said he cal’lated to educate him; and so he never done nothing for three months but set in his back yard and learn that frog to jump. And you bet you he did learn him, too. He’d give him a little punch behind, and the next minute you’d see that frog whirling in the air like a doughnut—see him turn one summerset, or maybe a couple if he got a good start, and come down flat-footed and all right, like a cat. He got him up so in the matter of ketching flies, and kep’ him in practice so constant, that he’d nail a fly every time as fur as he could see him. Smiley said all a frog wanted was education, and he could do ‘most anything — and I believe him. Why, I’ve seen him set Dan’l Webster down here on this floor—Dan’l Webster was the name of the frog—and sing out, “Flies, Dan’l, flies!” and quicker’n you could wink he’d spring straight up and snake a fly off’n the counter there, and flop down on the floor ag’in as solid as a gob of mud, and fall to scratching the side of his head with his hind foot as indifferent as if he hadn’t no idea he’d been doin’ any more’n any frog might do. You never see a frog so modest and straightfor’ard as he was, for all he was so gifted. And when it come to fair and square jumping on a dead level, he could get over more ground at one straddle than any animal of his breed you ever see. Jumping on a dead level was his strong suit, you understand; and when it came to that, Smiley would ante up money on him as long as he had ared. Smiley was monstrous proud of his frog, and well he might be, for fellers that had travelled and been everywheres all said he laid over any frog that ever they see.



Well, Smiley kep’ the beast in a little lattice box, and he used to fetch him down- town sometimes and lay for a bet. One day a feller — a stranger in the camp, he was — come acrost him with his box, and says: “What might it be that you’ve got in the box?” And Smiley says, sorter indifferent-like, “It might be a parrot, or it might be a canary, maybe, but it ain’t — it’s only just a frog.”


And the feller took it, and looked at it careful, and turned it round this way and that, and says, “H’m — so ‘tis. Well, what’s he good for?” “Well,” Smiley says, easy and careless, “he’s good enough for one thing, I should judge — he can out jump any frog in Calaveras County.”


The feller took the box again and took another long, particular look, and give it back to Smiley, and says, very deliberate: “Well,” he says, “I don’t see no p’ints about that frog that’s any better’n any other frog.” “Maybe you don’t,” Smiley says. “Maybe you understand frogs and maybe you don’t understand ‘em; maybe you’ve had experience, and maybe you ain’t only a a mature, as it were. Anyways, I’ve got my opinion, and I’ll resk forty dollars that he can out jump any frog in Calaveras County.”


And the feller studies a minute, and then says, kinder sad like, “Well, I’m only a stranger here, and I ain’t got no frog, but jf I had a frog I’d bet you.”   And then Smiley says: “That’s all right—that’s all right; if you’ll hold my box a minute, I’ll go and get you a frog.”


And so the feller took the box and put up his forty dollars along with Smiley’s and set down to wait. So he set there a good while thinking and thinking to hisself, and then he got the frog out and prized his mouth open and took a teaspoon and filled him full of quail shot—filled him pretty near up to his chin—and set him on the floor. Smiley he went to the swamp and slopped around in the mud for a long time, and finally he ketched a frog and fetched him in and give him to this feller, and says:  “Now, if you’re ready, set him alongside of Dan’l, with his fore-paws just even with Dan’l’s, and I’ll give the word.” Then he says, “One—two—three—git!” and him and the feller touched up the frogs from behind, and the new frog hopped off Lively; but Dan’L give a heave, and hysted up his shoulders—so—like a Frenchman, but it warn’t no use—he couldn’t budge; he was planted as solid as a church, and he couldn’t no more stir than if he was anchored out. Smiley was a good deal surprised, and he was disgusted, too, but he didn’t have no idea what the matter was, of course.


The feller took the money and started away; and when he was going out at the door he sorter perked his thumb over his shoulder—so—at Dan’l, and says again, very deliberate: “Well,” he says, “I don’t see no p’ints about that frog that’s any better’n any other frog.”


Smiley he stood scratching his head and Looking down at Dan’l a long time, and at last he says, “I do wonder what in the nation that frog throwed off for—I wonder if there ain’t something the matter with him—he ‘pears to look mighty baggy, somehow.” And he ketched Dan’l by the nape of the neck, and hefted him, and says, “Why blame my cats if he don’t weigh five pounds!” and turned him upsidedown, and he belched out a double handful of shot. And then he see how it was, and he was the maddest man—he set the frog down and took out after that feller, but he never ketched him.



                              Some play for gain; to pass time others play

                              For nothing; both play the fool, I say:

                              Nor time nor coin I’ll lose, or idly spend;

                              Who gets by play, proves loser in the end. 





                                                   Bets at the first were fool-traps, where the wise

                                                   Like spiders lay in ambush for the flies.

                                                                                            JOHN DRYDEN



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