The Calaveras Jumping Frog

I had no idea what to expect when Carol and I went to San Andreas to visit our son and his family. Our first three nights were in the town named Angels Camp just eleven miles south.

No; that isn’t a place where celestial beings hunted and camped out. It is a town started by Henri Angell in 1848 as a gold mining town. Originally named Carson’s Creek, the town was incorporated under the name Angels in 1912 (located in Calaveras County) and eventually renamed to Angels Camp.

Although more than $20,000,000 in gold was processed there in the middle to late 1800s, one thing brought fame to both the town and a man: a story about a frog.

Sam Clemens, under the pen name of Mark Twain, was down on his luck and came to try his hand at panning for gold in the winter of 1864-1865. He didn’t do very well during his 88 days here in the California hills, but he heard a story in one of the taverns about a jumping frog. The veracity of the story is questionable; but embellishing it even further, Mark Twain wrote it up and sent it to his newspaper, The Territorial Enterprise, in Virginia City, Nevada.

That story, only 2,637 words including the title (The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras by Mark Twain), brought him immediate fame and fortune; that story became his “gold mine.”

Our son, Ron, took me to visit the site of his cabin on Jackass Hill where Mark Twain lived for almost three months. The hill received that name because at least once a week, a caravan of up to 200 donkeys with supplies for the miners in Carson Creek (Angels Camp) would stop there for the night.

Today, the main feature of the Calaveras County Fair is the frog-jumping contest. It is called the Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee and is one the longest-running events in the state of California—going back to 1893. Of course, as with any good county fair, it includes entertainment, livestock, food, music, and crafts.

The frog-jumping contest is usually in the third weekend of May; and in a town of about 3,900 population, about 50,000 visitors attend the jubilee. People can bring their own frogs or rent them from a company in town (who catch the amphibians in the local ponds). The winner of the contest each year gets a plaque and $900 in cash. But if a frog beats the world record of 21 feet, 5 ¾ inches, the owner gets a World Record Holder title and $5,000 cash. Now maybe you can see why this is a big deal in Calaveras County.

Frogs are placed at the starting line. They get three jumps. The actual distance they jump is immaterial – it’s how close the critter gets to the finish line that counts. They seldom jump in a straight line, but you should hear the noise of the crowd as they both cheer the critters and scare the daylights out of them.

Another event that takes place is the Mark Twain Wild West Fest on the third Saturday of October. Gold Rush village is a kid’s area with fence-painting, knot-tying, a petting zoo, historic town with candle and soap-making, and more. There is gold-rush era music, and in honor of Mark Twain, a liar’s contest. That’s a real hoot!

Mark Twain was a good story-teller. In 1899 he wrote an article titled, “How to Tell a Story.” He said, “The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the comic and the witty story upon the matter.”

Twain learned to tell stories in a dead-pan manner. The audience would be in a gale of laughter while Twain would sit there and watch them. That made it even funnier.

Mark Twain sent his story about the Calaveras County frog contest to The Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada. I read recently that although the paper had gone out of business sometime ago, it is now back in operation. It was in this newspaper that Twain wrote, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”

Angels Camp is about 132 miles east of San Francisco by road, and about 80 miles southeast from Sacramento. My favorite eating establishment in town is called Round-Table Pizza, and the best ice cream place is called Yummy Ha-Ha.

Jesus Overruled Physics and Politics

Before Jesus was born, His title was “The Word.” John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 14 tells us that the Word became a human and lived among us. God, the Word, was born under the name of Yehoshua (the Lord is Salvation) and translated into English as Joshua. Translated from Hebrew into Greek, his name is Iesous, and then translated into English is Jesus.

Historical records verify that Jesus was born in Bethlehem; lived in Egypt, Nazareth, and Galilee (and several other places), and His vocation was carpenter and stone mason. Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus was no wimp. Although He had a gentle disposition, He was muscular, physically tough, and had a will of iron. Those who were hurting or oppressed received gentle looks of compassion, but some of His adversaries shriveled under his steely glare!

Jesus had no identity crisis. He knew who He was and knew why He left heaven to live on earth. This was verified in Luke 2:48-49. Joseph and Mary were looking for Jesus and found Him in the temple bewildering the teachers of the law. When Mary asked twelve-year-old Jesus why He didn’t stay with them, Jesus responded, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus never did anything worthy of execution, so why was He crucified?

A sacrifice had to be made to rescue us from the black hole of oblivion called hell so that we could live with God forever in heaven. But to complete this liberating task, the sacrifice could not remain dead. Only God could accomplish this other-worldly task, and that’s why Jesus came.

Historical records verify that multi-thousands of people, including the Roman Emperor, heard that Jesus had risen from the dead, although most folks didn’t want to believe it. When the guards told the leaders of the Sanhedrin that Jesus had left the tomb, the leaders paid them to lie and say that Jesus’ disciples took His body from the tomb while they were sleeping. But that lie was absurd. Any reasonable child understands that we don’t know what’s happening while we’re asleep.

In 1546 AD, John Heywood said, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” That reminds me of the verse in Jeremiah 5:21, “Listen, you foolish and senseless people, with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear” (NLT). Both Jeremiah and John were speaking to people who refused to believe the obvious: those who closed their eyes and ears to reality. But Jesus was seen by many hundreds – perhaps thousands – of people during the forty days after He left the tomb. Jesus is alive!

Myths and legends have been created by those who refused to accept the fact that Jesus is alive, and I’ve been asked a number of times what happened to Him? The greatest history book in the world – the Bible – answers that question.

In Acts 1:9-11, after Jesus gave parting instructions to the hundreds of people standing with Him on the hill, He left earth under his own power. The verses say, “…as they were watching, He was lifted up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. As He was going, they were looking into the sky. Suddenly, two men wearing white clothes stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking into the sky? Jesus, whom you saw taken up from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you saw him go’” (NCV).

Not only did innumerable people see Jesus for forty days after He walked out of the tomb, but hundreds of people also watched Jesus overrule gravity and ascend into the sky. As He disappeared into the clouds the angel told them how Jesus would return.

Return? How? Why?

Jesus was not ruled by the laws of physics nor the pressures of politics, and the same will be true at His next appearance. Accompanied by myriads of angels and people, Jesus will come out of the sky under His own power. He will end the prevailing wars and put an end to all evil empires, corrupt democracies, and inadequate kingdoms. Jesus will set up His own Kingdom, and those whom He calls righteous will rule with him.

This is not the end of the story: read the Bible for more.

Suicide Doesn’t Help

Carol and I had been at the Niagara Falls for five minutes when the State Trooper walked up and asked, “Sir, I don’t understand a thing any these folks are saying, but you look like you speak English. Have you heard anything about a man jumping over the edge?”

“No, sir. I’ve been here for about five minutes, and I haven’t heard anything about that.”

 “The rumor is that he jumped over about seven minutes ago. If you hear anything about it, I’d appreciate it if you’d find me and let me know. I’ll be in the State Trooper booth over there.”

“Yes, sir. Will do.”

An estimated 12,000,000 people visit the Falls annually, and every year about 40 people are killed going over the Falls – most of them suicides. The horrendous water pressure mangles the person against the rocks below and sometimes the bodies are never found.

We walked to the railing that is supposed to keep people out of the Niagara River. Here is basic information about the Falls.

The water plunges onto the rocks and slowly erodes the cliff at the rate of less than a foot per year. The confluence from the Canadian Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls creates the large whirlpool below. The American Niagara plunges down a total of 167-188 feet (depending on the specific location), but the water hits the mound of boulders around 70-110 feet.

The river flows about 25 miles per hour with an average of 150,000 gallons going over the edge each second; but the highest recorded volume was about 700,000 gallons per second. Its speed is estimated to be 68 mph as it hits the jagged boulders with multiple tons of pressure.

On the lighter side: As I read other information about the five Great Lakes, the Niagara River, and the Falls, I leaned back and laughed. For an unknown number of centuries, the Laurentide Ice Sheet covered Canada and a portion of the Northern US. According to one theory, the last ice age ended about 18,000 years ago, and the ice sheet which gouged out the lakes began receding.

I read: “20,000 years ago, earth started to warm, and the Laurentide Ice Sheet began to disappear. By approximately 10,500 BC, the Niagara Peninsula was free of the ice.”

This is why I laughed. Man is accused of causing global warming, but man wasn’t capable of generating substantial local heat until about 1500 BC, and no substantial regional heat until the 1700s AD. But the ice sheet began melting around 18,000 BC.

If man wasn’t the culprit 20,000 years ago, what caused the global warming back then? For that matter, what caused the earth to warm and freeze to generate the multiple theoretical ice ages? If the earth can cool and warm by itself, why blame man now? This is simple logic and easy to think through.

Back to Niagara Falls.

Carol and I spent the next four hours looking at the beauty and wondering about the power of nature on this spot on the map in northwest New York. Standing on the observation tower several hundred yards away or at the railing a few feet from the water’s edge, the sight of the water plunging over the edge and the roar of the cascading water crashing on the rocks was almost mesmerizing. Is that what prompted the man to take the leap? Or was it sorrow, loneliness, embarrassment, or emotional pain that prompted him to end his life?

The Niagara Falls is called The Honeymoon Capital of the World, so why do so many people end their lives here?

For the western mindset, the thought might be, I just can’t take the pain any longer; I’ll end it all. For the New Age or oriental religions, the mindset might be, This life hurts too much; perhaps it will be better next time.

But suicide neither solves nor ends any problems; it only creates more. Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “Just as everyone must die once and then be judged, so Christ was offered as a sacrifice one time to take away the sins of the people. And he will come a second time, not to offer himself for sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Suicide will not help anyone, but Jesus can help whoever asks Him for help. Turn to God, and to friends, for help, comfort, and direction for life, because you are loved. Your life is valuable, and people need you.

John 3:16: For God so loved the [people in the] world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

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