An age-old question: Why do animals cross the road?


For those hoping to read a more serious column, look elsewhere on this page or perhaps in another part of this week’s newspaper. The tone of this will be on the rather light-hearted side.
A few weeks ago, I found myself driving to Altenburg on a Saturday morning (for the latest rendition of the coffee cake workshop at the Trinity school cafeteria) and Cape Girardeau on a Sunday morning (for my son’s soccer tournament). The trips included time on U.S. Highway 61, Highway A and Interstate 55. Along the way, on both driving excursions, there were multiple turtles attempting to cross the roadway. I believe the final count was five on Saturday and four more on Sunday.
The vehicle’s tires didn’t hit the slow-footed reptiles, and I was specifically trying to avoid them at all costs, if possible. On both trips, my kids didn’t see the shelled creatures making an ill-advised attempt at crossing the roadway. On a couple of occasions, I pointed out that a turtle was trying to cross the road. In between Altenburg and Frohna, just past East Perry Lumber Co., I’m fairly certain the vehicle behind me struck one of the turtles, as I saw it spinning off into the grass in my rearview mirror. No word on the reptile’s condition, but hopefully it survived to see another day. A squashed turtle shell was not visible on the return trip home Saturday afternoon. Animals attempting to cross a road isn’t new. It’s been occurring for decades and will continue for the foreseeable future. I guess my preference would be that this is something that turtles not try very often since they’re not fleet of foot and the risk/reward ratio is not that good unless the crossing attempt is made in the middle of the night.
Two idioms may be of help in trying to get to the bottom of this age-old dilemma.
• The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
Who hasn’t seen a cow reaching beneath the bottom row of a barbed-wire fence munching on grass? It may not look any different than the grass on the side of the fence the animal is penned in at, right? However, it’s viewed as something different, so it must be better. That’s the way the idiom works. If there is anything that one doesn’t have, go to the other side of the fence, cross the road, walk across the bridge to the other side of the stream, and inevitably what’s on the other side will be better.
Is the grass always really greener on the other side of the fence (or road in this test case?) And, if so, how do the animals know for certain even if it has the appearance of being greener that it’s not done with the addition of harmful pesticides and chemicals?
• Curiosity killed the cat.
If curiosity really killed the cat, then it must not be that bad, since feline friends have nine lives. So, why not be adventurous, intrepid and thrill-seeking? (I’m not sure the final two adjectives in that last sentence, and possible all three, can ever be associated with animals, but if there is one trait humans can take from animals, it’s a care-free attitude. There is a benefit to taking life day-by-day, and not worrying about trivial issues that do not really matter).
While humans aren’t animals, committing to and adopting a worry-free approach may seem impossible in 2022. It appears there is always another problem to address or an issue to fix, etc. Why do turtles cross the road…because they want to.
Thanks again for reading!
Daniel Winningham is the managing editor of the Republic-Monitor. He can be reached at 573-547-4567, ext. 227 or email


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