Why did the ducks cross the road?

Crossing the road where I grew up was no joke. Our mail and newspaper were delivered on the opposite side of the two lanes. To retrieve them, I stood at the end of our driveway and looked left. In that direction I could see the half-mile to where a busy state highway intersected our quiet county road. Any approaching traffic was visible.

To the right, the road crested. I couldn’t see vehicles coming from the west. Even a driver complying with the 55 mph speed limit would top the hill too quickly to avoid me. I strained to hear the squelch of tires on asphalt. If the only sound was the swish of cornstalks, I ran to the other side.

Once I fetched our deliveries, I stood on the berm and imagined the perils in crossing back. What if baa-ing sheep cover its noise and I step in front of a truck? What if I stumble and get hit by a car? Clutching the post to my chest, I dashed to the safety of our driveway.

Despite my fears, I volunteered for this errand to prevent my grandma from attempting it.  Grandma read her newspaper while crossing the road. This concerned and surprised me. Grandma worried about everything. I figured she would have shared my visions of vehicular mayhem.

Getting my grandparents’ mail was also an excuse to visit. They had sold their place in town and moved into a double-wide trailer behind our house. I loved having them so close. From listening to Grandpa’s tales of coon hunting to enjoying Grandma’s cooking, I had it made. More importantly, Grandma thrived in the country. Raised on a farm, she appreciated having cows as neighbors. Her green thumb helped our garden flourish. She knew the names of birds by sight and would join in their songs.

A duck nested across the road beside our neighbor’s pond one spring. After her eggs hatched, the mother initiated daily jaunts to our property. The duck waddled across the road followed by her five fluffy ducklings. It was the world’s most adorable parade, but I transferred my road-crossing anxiety to them. Grandma joined me. Unlike many of her worries, her concern for the ducks’ safety was legitimate. Still, Grandma enjoyed observing the family as they explored our yard. She would talk to them, getting “quack!” in response.

One evening as Grandma and I watered the roses, we saw the mother duck leading her charges our way. Grandma smiled but said, “That makes me nervous.” I agreed. A vehicle coming over the hill would never see the fowl family.

They had stepped onto the road when we heard a car approaching. It was coming from the east, so the driver could spot the ducks.  He would have ample time to slow or stop to allow them safe passage.

But that’s not what happened.

The car accelerated. We watched in horror as a front tire struck a duckling. Feathers flew when the rear tires made contact. The mother duck hastened to the ditch, but it was too late for three of the ducklings. Beside me, Grandma deflated. “That just makes me sick,” she whispered. I cried. Shortly after, Grandma retreated to her trailer.

Of all the accidental fates I imagined for anyone crossing the road, I never expected to bear witness to deliberate harm. Afterwards whenever I traversed the two lanes, I remembered those ducks, the ones that brought such joy and then such sorrow to Grandma.

Why did the ducks cross the road? To get to the other side.

Too bad that punchline was a killer.



41 thoughts on “Why did the ducks cross the road?

  1. How horrible! How could someone intentionally splatter three adorable little ducklings! Whoever told that punchline needs to croak-up. Growing up, we had a family of ducklings in our yard, too. Luckily, the creek ran through our yard, so there was no danger of vehicular homicide. I particularly dislike that your grandmother, who sounds like a fantastic lady, had to bear witness to such an atrocity.


  2. I stopped my car once to check a possum that had been struck in a suburban street (even if they’re dead, they sometimes have a surviving baby in their pouch). Before I could even park, I watched as another driver not only swerved to run over the possum, but then reversed to drive over it twice more. It’s difficult to understand what value some people add to the world at times.


    1. Not only was the driver’s action hateful, it was stupid. I was taught to avoid running over already dead animals in the road because the bones can damage your tires. I guess common sense is missing from people with no sense of decency.


  3. 😦 I have such hatred for animal cruelty. Just like cruelty to children, it’s that harm of an innocent that breaks me. Would it be so wrong of me to hope someone didn’t slow down when that that driver was crossing the road… Maybe.


  4. That person is psycho. A couple of days ago, a turtle was crossing the road. Two burly guys got out of their cars and stopped traffic. Their body language dared anyone to cross them.


  5. Oh no! How heartbreaking! We so want to believe in the good of people, and then things like this happen. I hope that karma found that driver.


  6. Coming from a town where I know people who speed up to hit things, I can identify with your anger. I’m not sure what instills a need like that in someone, but it’s very, very ugly.

    Aside from that, very nicely written


  7. Really well written. Seriously. And, it must have been hard to tell this story and relive this terrible memory. I really liked how your opening line and your closing were so well mirrored. The pacing was well done. Very well crafted. Sad, but … I mean really sad, but good writing does just what you did here. A punch to the abs. Nice.


  8. That person is a jerk. I loved hearing about your grandparents though. I lost mine way too soon, so it makes me happy when I hear of someone that got to spend time with theirs and appreciated it.


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