ANNOUNCER: Now, the VOA Special English program, AMERICAN STORIES.
Our story is called “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” It was written by Mark Twain. Here is Shep O’Neal with the story.
STORYTELLER: A friend of mine in the East asked me to visit old Simon Wheeler, to ask about my friend's friend, Leonidas W. Smiley. I did as my friend asked me to do and this story is the result.
Angel's Camp Today
I saw that he was fat and had no hair, and had a gentle and simple look upon his peaceful face. He woke up, and gave me “good-day.” I told him a friend had asked me to find out about a friend named Leonidas W. Smiley, who he heard was at one time living in Angel's Camp. I added that if Mister Wheeler could tell me anything about this Leonidas W. Smiley, I would feel a great responsibility to him.
Simon Wheeler forced me into a corner with his chair and began telling me this long story. He never smiled, he never frowned, he never changed his voice. But all through the endless story there was a feeling of great seriousness and honesty. This showed me plainly that he thought the heroes of the story were men of great intelligence.
I let him go on in his own way, and never stopped him once. This is the story Simon Wheeler told.
Leonidas W. …. h'm… Le… well, there was a man here once by the name of Jim Smiley, in the winter of eighteen forty-nine--or may be it was the spring of eighteen-fifty. Anyway, he was the strangest man. He was always making money on anything that turned up if he could get anybody to try to make money on the other side. And if he could not do that, he would change sides.
Lots of the boys here have seen that Smiley and can tell you about him. Why, it did not matter to him. He would try to make money on anything. He was the most unusual man. Parson Walker's wife was very sick once, for a long time, and it seemed as if they were not going to save her.
But one morning he come in, and Smiley asked him how was his wife, and he said she was better, thank God. And Smiley, before he thought, says, “Well, I'll risk my money she will not get well.'"
Smiley always come out the winner on that dog, at least until he found a dog once that did not have any back legs. The dog’s legs had been cut off in a machine. Well, the fighting continued long enough, and the money was gone. Then when Smiley’s dog come to make a grab the other dog’s back legs, he saw in a minute how there was a problem.
The other dog was going to win and Smiley’s dog looked surprised and did not try to win the fight anymore. He gave Smiley a look that said he was sorry for fighting a dog that did not have any back legs for him to hold, which he needed to win a fight. Then Smiley’s dog walked away, laid down and died. He was a good dog, and would have made a name for himself if he had lived, for he had intelligence. It always makes me feel sorry when I think of that last fight of his and the way it turned out.
He would give him a little hit from behind. And the next minute you would see that frog dancing in the air and then come down all on his feet and all right, like a cat. Smiley got him so the frog was catching flies, and he would catch one of those insects every time.
You never seen a frog so honest and simple as he was, for all he was so skilled. And when it come to jumping, he could get over more ground in one jump than any animal of his kind that you ever saw.
Smiley was very proud of his frog, and people who had traveled and been everywhere all said he was better than any frog they had ever seen.
And Smiley says, "It’s only just a frog." And the man took it, and looked at it careful, and turned it round this way and that, and says, "H'm, so it is. Well, what is he good for?"
"Well," Smiley says, easy and careless, “he can out jump any frog in Calaveras county."
The man took the box again, and took another long look, and gave it back to Smiley, and says, "Well, I don't see anything about that frog that is any better than any other frog."
"Maybe you don't," Smiley says. "Maybe you understand frogs and maybe you don't. Anyways, I will risk forty dollars and bet you that he can jump farther than any frog in Calaveras County."
And the man studied a minute. "Well, I'm only a stranger here, and I do not have a frog. But if I had a frog, I would risk my money on it.
He sat there a long time thinking and thinking. Then he got the frog out of the box. He filled its mouth full of bullets used to kill small birds. Then he put the frog on the floor.
Now Smiley had caught another frog and gave it to the man and said, “Now sit him next to Dan’l and I will give the word.”
Then Smiley says, “One-two-three-go!” and Smiley and the other man touched the frogs.
The new frog jumped. Dan’l just lifted up his body but could not move at all. He was planted like a building. Smiley was very surprised and angry too. But he did not know what the problem was.
Smiley stood looking down at Dan'l a long time, and at last says, "I wonder what in the nation happened to that frog. I wonder if there is something wrong with him.”
And he picked up Dan’l and turned him upside down and out came a whole lot of bullets. And Smiley was the angriest man. He set the frog down and took out after that man but he never caught him.
Now Simon Wheeler heard his name called and got up to see what was wanted. He told me to wait but I did not think that more stories about Jim Smiley would give me any more information about Leonidas W. Smiley, and so I started to walk away.
At the door I met Mister Wheeler returning, and he started talking again. "Well, this here Smiley had a yellow cow with one eye and no tail…”
However, lacking both time and interest, I did not wait to hear about the cow. I just left.
ANNOUNCER: You have heard the American Story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Your storyteller was Shep O’Neal. This story was written by Mark Twain and adapted into Special English by Karen Leggett. Listen again next week at this time for another American Story in VOA Special English. I’m Faith Lapidus.
1. Smiley's dog lost because his opponent __________________ .
2. In the frog jumping contest with Dan'l Webster, the stranger _____________________
3. After Smiley made a discovery about Dan'l Webster, he ran after the dishonest stranger, __________________
4. The story of Jim Smiley and his frog was told by __________________ .
5. After he said that there was nothing special about Dan'l Webster, the stranger left with the money, then ___________________ .
6. The story tells us that Jim Smiley was an unusual ___________________ .
7. One method Jim Smiley used to teach his frog how to jump was to _______________ .
8. Smiley said, "I bet you that my frog _______________ any frog in Calaveraus County."
9. Angel's Camp was populated in 1850 by ________________ and their families.
10. When Parson Walker said his sick wife was feeling better, Jim Smiley said that _____________________
The serious sport of frog jumping in Calaveras County, inspired by Mark Twain's story: