Today honors the first short story published by Samuel Clemens in 1867. The story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, has since become a favorite of both youngsters and oldsters. Frog jumping contests are held in several places around the US and the current frog jumping champion is Rosie the Ribeter who jumped 21 feet 5 1/2 inches (6 meters, 14 cm) to take the title back in 1986. The original competition began in Calaveras County, California in 1849 and prompted Twain to pen the short story. It also is the origin of this holiday. And believe it or not, there is an international counterpart to this day and it is celebrated on 19 February of each year.
In the story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," old Simon Wheeler tells the narrator the amusing story of Jim Smiley and his trained frog. Jim Smiley was a notorious gambler known for perpetrating a number of betting schemes on unsuspecting victims. One included a bull-pup named Andrew Jackson, who won dog fights (a big great big no-no nowadays) by latching onto one of his opponent's hind legs. A stranger bets Jim $40, a huge sum of money in those days, that Jim's frog can't jump any better than any average frog. While Jim's back is turned, the stranger fills Jim's frog with buckshot. Jim doesn't notice this until after he loses the bet, however, and has no way of winning back the money. Mark Twain, who had made his living as a Mississippi steamboat pilot before the Civil War and had gone on to be a printer, a journalist, and a sometime prospector, could hardly have imagined that his comic tale “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” which appeared originally under the more modest title “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” was to change his life forever and establish him in a career which was to lead to him becoming one of America’s greatest writers.
The tale is moderately amusing to those of us in the 21st century, but back in the mid-1800s it caught the attention of American readers across the country. The story is still enjoyed by readers today is available as a free download on the internet. Or check out a collection of Mark Twain's stories at your local library.
I have a full week of what I consider to be interesting topics to blog about so I hope you'll plan on joining me right here each day this week. Tomorrow is National Decency Day. And couldn't we all you a little more of that in our daily lives?
Until then, hop on my friends, hop on.