The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras Country

in compliance with the request of a friend of mine who wrote me from the east

I called on good-natured, garrulous old Simon Wheeler and inquired after my friends

friend Leonidas W smiley as requested to do and I hear unto a pen to the result

I have a lurking suspicion that Leonidas W smiley is a myth and that my friend never

knew such a personage and that he only conjectured that if I asked old Wheeler about

him it would remind him of his infamous Jim smiley, and he would go to work

and bore me to death with some exasperatingly reminisces of him as long

and as tedious as it should be useless to me if that was the design, it succeeded

I found Simon Wheeler dozing comfortably by the barroom stove of the dilapidated

Tavern in the decaying mining camp of angels, and I noticed that he was fat

and bald-headed and had an expression of weaning gentleness and simplicity upon

the tranquil countenance, he roused up and gave me a good day. I told him a friend

had commissioned me to make some inquiries about a cherished companion

of his boyhood named Leonidas W Smiley, Reverend Leonidas W Smiley, a young

minister of the gospel who he had heard was at one time a resident of Angels Camp

I added that if Mr. Wheeler could tell me anything about this, Reverend Leonidas

W smiley I would feel under many patience to him Simon Wheeler backed me into

a corner and blockaded me there with his chair and then sat down and reeled off

the monotonous narrative which follows this paragraph, he never smiled, he never

found he never changed his voice from the gentle flowing key to which he tuned his

initial sentence, he never betrayed the slightest suspicion of enthusiasm but all

through the interminable narrative, there ran a vein of impressive earnestness

and sincerity which showed me plainly that so far from his imagining that there was

anything ridiculous or funny about his story, he regarded it as a really important

matter and admired its two heroes as men of transcendent genius in finesse. I let him

go on in his own way and never interrupted him once reverend Leonidas W hmm

Reverend Lee, well, there was a feller here once by the name of Jim Smiley

in the winter of 49, or maybe it was the spring of 50, I don’t recollect exactly 

somehow know what makes me think it was one or the other is because I remember 

the big flume wasn’t finished when he first came to the camp, but anyway, he was the 

curia system and about always betting on anything that turned up; you ever see if he 

could get anybody to bet on the other side, and if he couldn’t, he’d change sides 

anyway that suited the other man would suit him anyway just so he got a bet he was 

satisfied but still, he was lucky, uncommonly lucky he almost always came out the 


He was always ready and laying for a chance; there couldn’t be any solitary thing

mentioned, but that feller had offered a bet on it and take any side you please, as I 

was just telling you, if there was a horse race, you’d find him flush, or you’d find him 

busted at the end of it, if there was a dogfight, he’d bet on it; if there was a catfight, 

he’d bet on it, if there was a chicken fight, he’d bet on it why if there were two Birds 

setting on a fence, he would bet you which one would fly first or if there was a camp 

meeting he would be there regularly to bet on parson Walker which he judged the 

best exhorter about here, and he was too and a good man if he even saw a straddle 

bug start to go anywhere he would bet you how long it would take him to get to 

wherever he was going to, and if he took him up, he would follow that straddle bug to 

Mexico but what he would find out where he was bound for and how long he was on 

the road lots of the boys here have seen that smile and can tell you about him and 

why it never made no difference to him; he’d bet on anything, the danger feller 

parson Walker’s wife laid very sick once for a good while, and it seemed as if they 

weren’t going to save her, but one morning, he came in and smiley up and asked him 

how she was and he said she was considerably better; thank the Lord for His infinite 

mercy and coming on so smart that with the blessing of Providence, she’d get well yet

and smiley, before he thought, says, well, I’ll risk two and a half; she doesn’t anyway

this year smiley had a mare. The boys called her the 15-minute nag, but that was only

in the fun, you know, because of course, she was faster than that and he used to win 

money on that horse, for all, she was so slow and always had the asthma or the 

distemper or the consumption or something of that kind; they used to give her two or 

three hundred yards start and then pass her underway but always at the end of the 

race she’d get excited and desperate like and come cavorting and straddling up

and scattering her legs around limber, sometimes in the air and sometimes out

to one side amongst the fences and kicking up more dust and raising more racket

with her coughing and sneezing and blowing her nose and always fetching up

at the stand just about a neck ahead as near as he could cipher it down, and he had

a little small bull pup that, to look at him, you’d think he wasn’t worth a cent, but to sit

around and look ornery and lay for a chance to steal something but as soon as

money was up on him. He was a different dog. His underjaw began to stick out like

the fo’c’sle of a steamboat and his teeth would uncover and shine like the furnaces

and a dog might tackle him and bullyrag him and bite him and throw him over

his shoulder two or three times, and Andrew Jaxson, which was the name of the pup

Andrew Jackson would never let on that he was satisfied and hadn’t expected

nothing else, and the bets being doubled and doubled on the other side all the time

until the money was all up, and then all of a sudden, he would grab that other dog just

by the joint of his hind leg and freeze to it now chow you understand but only just grip

and hang on until they throw it up the sponge. If it was a year, smiley always came out

a winner on that pup til he harnessed a dog once that didn’t have any hind legs

because they’d been sawed it off in a circular saw, and when the thing had gone along

far enough, and the money was all up, and he comes to make a snatch for his pet holt

he saw in a minute how he’d been imposed on and how the other dog had him

in the door, so to speak, and he appeared surprised, and then he looked sort

of discouraged like and didn’t try anymore to win the fight, and so he got shucked out

bad, he gave Smiley a look as much as to say his heart was broken and it was his fault

for putting up a dog that hadn’t any hind legs for him to take hold of, which was

his main dependence in a fight, and then he limped off a piece and laid down and died

it was a good pup was that Andrew Jackson would have made a name for himself

if he lived for the stuff that was in him, and he had genius, I know it because he had

no opportunities to speak of, and don’t stand to reason that a dog could make such

a fight as he could under the circumstances if he hadn’t any talent; it always makes

me feel sorry when I think of that last fight of his and the way it turned out well

this year smiley had rat terriers and chicken and Tom cats, and all of them kind

of things, till you couldn’t rest and you couldn’t fetch anything for him to bet on but

he’d match you; he caught a frog one day and took him home, said he’d calculated

to educate him, and so he never did anything for three months but said in his

backyard and learned that frog to jump, and you bet he did learn him too he’d give 

him a little punch behind, and the next minute, you see that frog hurling in the air like

a doughnut. See him turn one Summerset or maybe a couple if he gets a good start

and come flat-footed and alright like a cat, he got him up, so in the matter of catching

flies and kept him in practice so constantly that they nailed a fly every time as far as 

he could see him smiley said all the frog wanted was education, and he could do 

almost anything and I believe him why I’ve seen him, Daniel Webster, down here on 

this floor, Daniel Webster was the name of the Frog and sang out fly’s dental flies 

and quicker and you could wink he’s spring straight up and sneak a fly off 

in the counter there and flop down on the floor again and solid as a gobble of mud 

and fall to scratching the side of his head with his hind foot as indifferent as if he 

hadn’t any idea he’d been doing any more, and a frog might do. You never see a frog 

so modest and straightforward as he was for all, he was so gifted, and when it comes 

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 comes to that, a smiley will ante up money 

on him as long as he had a red smile, he was monstrously proud of his frog, and while 

he might be four fellers that had traveled, and then Everywhere’s all said he laid over 

any frog that ever they see well; Smiley kept the beast in a little lattice box, 

and he used to fetch him downtown sometimes and lay for a bet one day a feller, a 

stranger in the camp he was come across him with his box and says, what might be 

that you’ve got in the box and smiley says sorter and different 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 I’m fat and said, hmm so 

tis well, what’s he good for well smiley says it’s easy and careless; he is 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 gave it back to Smiley 

and said very deliberately well he says I don’t see any pints about that frog that’s any 

better than any other frog maybe you don’t smiley says, maybe you understand 

frogs, and maybe you don’t understand him, maybe you’ve had experience, and 

maybe you ain’t only an amateur as it were, anyways, I’ve got my opinion, and I’ll risk 

40 dollars that he can out-jump any frog in Calaveras County, and the feller studied a 

minute and then says kind of sad like well, I’m only a stranger here, and I ain’t got no 

frog, but if 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 oh, the feller took the box 

and put up his $40 along with Smiley’s and set down to wait, so he sat there a good 

while thinking and thinking to himself 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 caught a frog and fetched him in and 

gave him to this feller and he says now if you’re ready to set him alongside of Dan’l 

with his forepaws, just even with Dan’l’s, and I’ll give the word, then he says 1 2 3 get 

and him and the feller touched up the frogs from behind, and the new frog hopped

off lively, but down I’ll give a heave and high stood up his shoulders so like a 

Frenchman, but it wasn’t any use he couldn’t budge; he was planted as solid as a 

church, and he couldn’t any more stir then if he was anchored out, smiley was a good 

deal surprised, and he was disgusted too but he didn’t have any 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 sort of jerked his thumb over his shoulder so at dental and says 

again very deliberately, well he says I don’t see any pints about that frog that’s any 

better than any other frog smiley he stood scratching his head and looked down at 

Donnell a long time and at last said I do wonder what in the nation that fog throws it 

off for. I wonder if there ain’t something the matter with him, he appears to look 

mighty baggy somehow, and he ketched and down–all up by the nape of the neck 

and hefted him and says why to blame my cats if you don’t weigh five pounds and 

turn him upside down and he belts out a double handful of shots, and then he saw 

how it was, and he was the maddest man; he set the frog down and took out after 

that feller, but he never caught him, and here’s Simon Wheeler heard his name called 

from the front yard and got up to see what was wanted turning to me as he moved 

away, he said just sit where you are, stranger, and rest easy I ain’t going to be gone a 

second, but by your leave, I did not think that a continuation of the history of the 

enterprising vagabond, Jim Smiley would be likely to afford me much information 

concerning the Reverend Leonidas W smiley, and so I started away at the door, I met 

the sociable healer returning, and he buttonholed me and recommenced well 

this year smiley had a Yeller one-eyed cow that didn’t have any tail only just a short 

stump like a banana and, however, lacking both time and inclination I did not wait 

to hear about the afflicted cow and took my leave. 

The End