Why does the chicken cross the road?

farmMy husband and I carpool each day from the farm to our jobs downtown. We have lots of time to chat or not. Sometimes, it’s just nice to ride in the car together without saying anything. Frequently, I tell him how to drive and he reminds me that it’s a long walk home then we reach a mutually respected truce. This truce is only interrupted by my sharp intakes of breath as I throw out my arms to brace myself for the impact that never comes. This is then followed by stern sidelong glance at each other. We’re each giving the other one “The Look”. You know the look I’m talking about. No words are actually exchanged but everyone’s expressions speak volumes.

In reality it goes something like this:

“GASP!” Reach. Glance. Glance.

In the wordless conversations that go on between a husband and wife, it goes like this:

“Oh my gosh! Look out for that car in front of us. They’re stopping.”

“I saw it. What do you think I’m doing, driving with my eyes closed?”

“Holy Cow! You just seem to always wait till the last minute to stop and it scares me to death!”

“I’ve been driving longer than you have and I’ve never rear-ended anyone. Have a little faith in me.”

“You just keep your eyes on the road, mister! You’re transporting precious cargo, here.”

“Need I remind you that…”

“I know, I know. It’s a long walk home.”

But I digress.

I was driving us home yesterday, after having run some errands after work. We were quite near our home which is in a rather rural area. Each day we pass a nearby farm that is home to a menagerie of animals that includes a few llamas, some miniature donkeys, a small flock of chickens and a collection of fake geese. If I lived there, I’d volunteer to take care of the geese. I could boast about how well behaved my geese were compared to those spitting llamas, braying donkeys and wandering chickens. For some reason unknown to us, the chickens of this residence seem to like to wander up and down the shoulder of the section line road. Do the bugs near the road taste better? Is outside the fence just out of spitting range of the llamas? Have the donkeys kicked them to the curb? Are they preparing to play ‘chicken’? Sorry. Are they contemplating that whole ‘crossing the road’ issue? After all, we are talking about chickens.

Anyway, as we drove past my husband said, “You know, those must be some pretty smart chickens.”

“Why?” says I. You see, he was raised on the farm and I’m a city girl. I honestly believe he’s going to impart some farm wisdom to me at this point.

“Why does the chicken cross the road?” he asked.

“Well, duh! Everyone knows that. They cross the road to get to the other side.” Even as I say this, I’m beginning to wonder if that is indeed the real reason they cross the road. I begin to contemplate the chicken cosmos.

“Well, if they’re doing so much road crossing why is it you never see any of them being run over.” He said.

“That’s true! I have never seen a dead chicken in the road. Never!” He’s got me hook, line and sinker and I know it. I have to turn this around. “But wait. They’re actually food. Of course you never see any of them squashed on the road. Who’d leave food out on the road. If chickens were easy to hit, what would keep folks from driving around the countryside before dinnertime trying to run down any chicken they came upon”. In my mind, I can see it like this:

A dilapidated pickup truck approaches an unsuspecting flock of chickens pecking around in the middle of the section line road. Cue the music from “Jaws” or “Deliverance” or better yet the shower scene from “Psycho”. All the truck windows are down, there’s a red smear on the front bumper and a lone strand of rusty bailing wire bounces merrily along beneath the truck as it has long ago come unfastened from the muffler.   A middle aged couple sits in the cab. The man wears a look of sheer determination s he clutches the steering wheel in white knuckle fashion. The woman’s eyes are wide and she’s wearing an apron and an old pillowcase is folded neatly in her lap. For an obvious reason, I believe she’s also holding a paring knife.

Gertrude: “Make a bee line for that fat red one there just near the bar ditch.”

Boudreaux: “Don’t be so greedy, Gertrude. Remember, we tried for her last month and I’m still havin’ to pay for the repairs to the Smith’s fence.”

Gertrude: “You never mind that fence. Preacher’s coming on Sunday and I am not serving armadillo casserole again. I need that fat hen!”

Boudreaux: “If’n I can’t get her with the front bumper, you open the truck door a little and try to hit her with it. I’ll shoot a u-turn and we can scoop her up on the way back past while she’s still stunned.”

This will not end well for Mrs. Smith’s prized Rhode Island Red.

After my split second mental chicken hunting expedition with Boudreaux and Gertrude, I picked the thread of conversation again where I had left off about no one being silly enough to leave food in the middle of the road. “For example, have you ever seen anyone leave a cow in the middle of the road? I should think not. Like I said, it’s food. They’d just pack it up and toss it in the freezer. Have you ever seen a lobster lying dead in the road. No Sir!” At this point my husband is looking at me like I have lost what’s left of my mind and probably questioning why he asked me to marry him in the first place. A question I am certain he asks himself far too frequently.

I tell him that the only reason we see skunks, snakes, opossums, and squirrels in the road is because they’re not really food. I vaguely remember him bringing up the subject of whether or not a turtle in the road is bound for soup or is just road kill. But, I was still wondering how those crazy chickens kept from being run over. They just cannot be that smart.

Just then a couple riding in an older model pickup truck passed us going in the opposite direction. I could have sworn I saw a bit of a red smear on the front bumper and was that a piece of bailing wire hanging underneath?

Cue the music from “Psycho”.

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