By David N. Clay
It’s a sad day for the Cricket Jumpin’ Contest ‘cause there ain’t gonna be no more cricket jumpin’ contests. Saddest thing I’ve ever seen.
We have these cricket hoppin’ contests in Okaloosa County. They’s a sight, I tell ya, and they been goin’ on for over thirty years. In fact, we have in our clubhouse a picture paintin’ of the most famous jumpin’ cricket in the entire world. His name was Jolly—Jumpin’ Jolly, they called him—and golly could he jump!
The last three contests, Jumpin’ Jolly’s great, great, great, great, great grandson has been the winner, and boy he’s a sight! The first Jumpin’s been dead for a long time, but his legacy lives on. Jumpin’ the sixth or seventh—I lose count—is owned by Roger Parkman, the county commissioner, the guy who takes care of all the tax money for the roads and such.
It seems that ole Roger has been winning these contests for a while now and making a lot of money gambling on cricket jumpin’.
In the early days, we would bet every extra dollar we had on Jumpin’s children and all of them, could they jump! Every year hundreds of dollars would be bet on cricket jumpin’. Then, since Roger’s Jumpin’ would always be a-winnin’ and the odds kept getting worse and Roger wasn’t makin’ so much money on the bettin’, Roger told us to start bettin’ on stuff like how far he’d jump on the first jump. Then all the men would start bettin’ on that. Roger’s Jumpin’ could jump almost four feet on his first jump. Roger started winnin’ that bet all the time, so we stopped bettin’ on the first jump, and started bettin’ on the second and then the third jump.
At the Jumpin’ Clubhouse during cricket jumpin’ time, there’d be a passel of fives, tens, and twenties on the bettin’ table.
Also, ole Roger’s been makin’ some money on his special elixir he’s been selling to the other contestants. “Magic Jumpin’ Juice,” he calls it. Says he’s been givin’ the jumpin’ juice to his crickets for ten cricket generations. Says it makes them crickets jump farther—it says so right on the bottle.
Now you don’t need much juice per cricket, so he sells it for ten dollars an ounce ‘cause crickets don’t drink much. He also sells little eye droppers for the cricket juicin’. Sells ‘em for a dollar apiece. And he’s got pictures and testimonials. I’m sure that picture of the cricket he had posed for the labels on the front of his mason jars been touched up some. That cricket in the picture has really long legs. (Taken from a grasshopper or katydid probably.) It looks odd. And someone’s written some testimonies about how Rogers’s juicin’ elixir works on crickets. But what I heard from Tommy—whose cricket, Eraser, comes in second to Jumpin’ Jolly almost all the time—is that it makes the cricket right ornery. In fact, Tommy said that Eraser done went and chewed a bunch of his other crickets to death: bit their legs off and their antenny, and then Eraser up and keeled over and died. He ain’t got no cricket in this here competition. He blamed Roger’s Jumpin’ Juice for the carnage.
So, it’s down to five crickets. Then comes another tragedy. Farmer Sal’s cricket, Hoppin’ Harry, lost a leg on the practicing. Just fell off. He blamed the Jumpin’ Juice also.
Now they’s down to four crickets, which don’t make much of a contest. Then Big Jim’s cricket, Sound of Music, up and left him to have her babies. She can’t be found anywhere.
Now they’s down to three crickets, but I just heard Billy’s cricket, Ain’t for Fishin’, got so big from the Jumpin’ Juice that Billy just decided to go fishin’ with him because he knewed he was going to lose anyway. Caught a bass with Ain’t for Fishin’, now ain’t that ironical?
Now there’s only two competin’ crickets, Jumpin’ Jolly, the reigning champion, and a little ole house cricket named Ricket the Cricket. Seems his legs are a bit crooked, but now, don’t think that hinders him none; he’s a good jumper. But here’s what happened. During the contest between Jumpin’ Jolly and Ricket the Cricket, Jumpin’ Jolly jumped so far on his first jump that he broke both legs, and he was hurtin’ so bad that Roger had to put him out of his mis’ry and squished him under a five-dollar bill someone betted on him.
So, what do you know? That little ole Ricket the Cricket won that contest, and Roger lost every dime he ever made on Jumpin’ Jolly and his Magic Jumpin’ Juice. And also all his opponents are suing him at the county court over that he sold them that Magic Jumpin’ Juice and it kilt their crickets.
So there ain’t no more jumpin’ contests. But if ya lookin’ for some good bettin’, since there’s no cricket jumpin’, it’s down at the baseball complex at the First Baptist Church. Folks there bettin’ on who wins and who loses and how many runs are scored and who gets a hit and when. Be careful though: I hear tell the Methodists are not only throwing softballs, they’s throwin’ the games—you know, losin’ on purpose—so they can make some cash. Their church needs a new roof.
Thank the good Lord ain’t nobody bettin’ on that football on the TV. It might just ruin the game.