This is a humorous story about a frog that could jump higher than any other story in the county. The story begins when a friend of the narrator asks Simon Wheeler to talk about his friend, Leonidas W. Smiley. Wheeler admits he does not know anyone called Leonidas W. Smiley, but he knew a man called Jim Smiley. Jim was a man who loved to bet. The story’s setting is in a local bar, Angel’s camp.
Jim could bet on anything; dog fights, horse races, or even flying birds. Smiley owned chicken cocks, rat terriers, and tomcats, which he used for betting and always won the bets. The author describes Smiley’s betting animals; he owned a mare that people called the “fifteen minute nag”. The mare seemed too slow and had asthma. The mare could be first at the begining, and then walk along until the end of the race when she would suddenly bolt ahead as though she were crazy until she could win the race. Smiley’s other betting animal is his dog, Andrew Jackson, who did not seem like a winner but would shock competitors once they placed bets on him. Andrew’s trick was to catch other dogs’ back legs in his mouth throughout the fight, and he would emerge the winner.
One day, Andrew was in a fight with a dog with no back legs. Realizing he had no way of fighting, Andrew gave Smiley a heartbreaking look, crawled away and died. The narrator comments that this episode was sad because Andrew must have some genius genes in him. The dog had not had opportunities in life but in the county, the dog managed to come top in competitions. To advance his betting career, Smiley caught a frog and named it Dan’l Webster. For over three months, Smiley taught Webster how to jump higher than any other frog. Smiley taught the frog to catch flies so fast and well that all the frog need was to spot a fly, and it would be his. The narrator describes Webster as “modest and straightforward” despite being so gifted. Webster competed and won all jumping competitions because he could jump higher than any other frog. One day, a passing stranger asks Smiley about Webster. Smiley said Webster could out jump all frogs. However, the stranger dismisses Smiley, arguing that he sees nothing special about Webster.
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Smiley bets $40 dollars that Webster could out jump any frog in Calaveras. Since the stranger did not have a frog, Smiley set out to get Webster a competitor. However, in Smiley’s absence, the stranger fed Webster with a quail shot. When Smiley came back with a new frog and the competition began, Webster could not move, and the other frog won the competition. The stranger repeated that there was nothing special about Webster, and went away with Smiley’s money. Wondering what was wrong; Smiley examined Webster and found him full of quail. When he realized this, Smiley went out to look for the stranger, but the stranger had already the county.
This story has a moral and life lessons interpretation. Smiley seemed to be an expert at finding and training animals to win competitions. Through Wheeler’s descriptions, it is clear that most of his animals gave poor physical image, and people could easily discard them as losers. However, they always won competitions, only to shock people. Readers may interpret this part as a teaching from the author. The author sought to illustrate to readers that they should hold back judgments. During competitions, opponents should view other competitors as having equal abilities of winning competitions. This helps competitors use their full potentials in competitions. In addition to this, the author seeks to illustrate that people should refrain from boasting about their abilities or expertise.
The author illustrates this through the narrator’s comments about the frog and the dog when the narrator says, “the dog must have been a genius but lacked opportunities” and the frog was “modest and straightforward” despite having a gift. The author’s intention was to teach readers that everyone is capable of excelling, if presented with opportunities. Smiley seemed to be the one providing opportunities to the animals. Smiley took these animals and taught them tricks, which enabled them win competitions despite people looking down on them.
The author also intended to teach readers that they should always have more than one strategy for beating opponents. Specializing in one strategy is dangerous because if the games’ rules change, one could be left a loser. He illustrates this with Andrew’s last fight, when Andrew fights a dog with no back legs. Because Andrew is only trick was holding his competitor’s back leg, he had no other strategy of fighting this new dog. If Smiley had taught him other tricks, Andrew could have won. Readers should not only apply these lessons in competitions, but in life too. People must have living strategies, and to win in life, they must have training in life lessons and learn how to tackle challenges.
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No matter how smart or intelligent one may be, there is always someone smarter or more intelligent. The author illustrates at the end, by introducing a stranger who outsmarts Smiley. No one had ever challenged and won against Smiley. However, the stranger seemed to have realized a new way of winning the competition. Different readers could have varied interpretations of these events; however, the author must have intended to provide lessons and moral teachings, in a hidden way.
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