For the most part, I’m relatively calm, cool and collected.

Unless someone breaks a mirror.

Or walks beneath a ladder.

Or mentions the number 13.

Or, heaven forbid, a black cat crosses my path.

OK, so maybe I’m not that calm, cool and collected after all. But can you blame me? Those superstitions aren’t something to mess around with.

This issue came up again a few days ago when I grabbed my camera, filled up the gas tank and hit the road in search of scenic fall photos to publish in The Country Today and post on our Facebook page.

I ventured west through Outagamie County, then veered north to Shawano, Oconto and Menominee counties before circling back to Brown County, finding additional story ideas along the way.

Gray skies didn’t prove helpful, but at least it wasn’t raining. As a bonus, I avoided running over any animals crisscrossing the roads ahead — on that particular day, I missed two deer, a skunk, a squirrel and what looked to be a woodchuck. (Side note: I once ran over a skunk and the nauseating smell lingered for nearly four months despite daily trips to the car wash).

As I left home to scout locations for possible fall photos that day, I figured I would head to Keshena, where numerous small lakes dot the countryside. The goal was to get a picture of colorful leaves lining a lake, reflecting on the serene, mirror-like water.

Mere seconds away from my destination, wouldn’t you know it — a black cat sauntered across the road in front of me. My destination was just past the bend up ahead. I could’ve tempted fate and kept going. But let’s be real, it simply wasn’t worth the risk.

With no other cars in sight, I slammed on the brakes — in part to avoid hitting the cat but more so to respect a basic rule of superstition: if a black cat crosses your path, you turn around.

So I did. Promptly putting the car in reverse, I pulled off a nifty Y-turn and hightailed it back down the road from whence I just came ... the black cat a fading image in my rear-view mirror. The cool colorful leaves photo by the tranquil lake will have to wait for another day.

I know, I know. Don’t be silly. It’s just a crazy superstition.

But I’ve never knowingly crossed the path of a black cat (especially during the month of October with Halloween coming up), and I’m still here to talk about it. Perhaps that superstition isn’t so silly after all.

Benjamin Wideman covers eastern Wisconsin. He can be reached at