By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - California lawmakers set aside the business of running the most populous U.S. state on Wednesday to gather on the state capitol lawn to see who could coax a frog to hop the farthest in a contest inspired by Mark Twain's gold-rush tale, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."
It was a warm, sunny day, so the amphibious athletes were kept in wet burlap bags in the shade for their own good until the contest got under way.
First up was Republican state Senator Tom Berryhill, also the master of ceremonies, whose district includes Calaveras County, where the Twain story was set and where the county fair for years has included a frog jump of its own.
A volunteer removed a squirming green creature with a speckled underbelly from one of the bags and handed it to Berryhill, who called him Watertight, Jr., which he said was the son of the frog he picked out of the bag last year.
The senator got down on his knees and placed the frog on a starting cushion and encouraged it to hop. The successful strategy involved creating a very loud thump by bringing his hands down on either side of the contestant.
The rules allowed for three hops, after which the volunteer dashed over with a measuring tape to establish that Watertight had traveled 5 feet, 1-1/2 inches.
Throughout the lunch hour and a little beyond, politicians and a few interns standing in as "frog jockeys" clapped, thumped and leapt alongside the heroic hoppers.
Jumping up and down to get some movement out of Collective Bargaining, the frog backed by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, intern Brandon Roberts elicited a gasp from the crowd when it looked as if he might land on the frog. Collective Bargaining covered 9 feet, 6 inches.
Piloting the winner was Southern California Democratic Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, who named her jumper Larry B 2.0, after her chief of staff, Larry Broussard.
Larry B 2.0 hopped 10 feet and 11 inches - a great relief to Brown, whose 2013 frog had finished last.
"This year, I embraced the frog," she said, posing with a bright green trophy.
(This story has been refiled to remove picture code.)
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Prudence Crowther)