Tripping out on tryptophane


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Tripping out on tryptophane
By Bobby Neal Winters

It’s the time of year for us, as a nation, to stuff ourselves into our minivans and SUVs, to go to a relative’s home, fill ourselves with turkey, and to lay back to watch a football game in a tryptophane-induce stupor.

For those of you who don’t know it already, tryptophane is an amino acid. Other than just having that knowledge for its on pure sake, this time of year it is of interest because it’s found in turkey. Supposedly it’s the reason so many folks conk-out after Thanksgiving dinner in front of the football game. If you were living in ignorance before, now you know. I hope it doesn’t swell your head.

I was doing some research on the internet on this, and you can buy it by the pound at the veterinary supply company to give to horses for “calming.” For the price of $40 a pound, you can enjoy the soporific affects without having to eat the turkey, or your horse can, I should say.

My family preferred ham to turkey for the most part, so a tryptophane-induced stupor was not a part of our traditional family holiday, and football was nothing to fall asleep in front of, because, if we watched any game at all, it was the OU-Nebraska game. In those days, if you were a Sooner fan, you didn’t fall asleep in front of the TV. You stayed awake so you could cuss at the fumbles.

While I do enjoy football when I actually take time to sit down and watch it, I don’t organize part of my life around it like so many fine folks do. I’ve developed a theory that devotion to this sport is a part of our nature which is leftover from the days when the men went out in groups to hunt mammoth in order to survive or went to war with neighboring tribes in order to protect the family hearth.

I can only recall one game standing out from any of the others. The Sooners got behind the Cornhuskers and couldn’t seem to do anything right. My father, brother, and I just couldn’t stand the heartache, so we simply left the house at halftime to go on a walk in the woods. We wanted to put some distance between us and the TV that was causing us so much pain. When we got back, the game had turned around, and the Sooners went on to win. Over the years, the walks in the woods were more memorable to me than the football.

When we took our walks, we called it hunting for arrowheads. We never found very many, but it gave us an excuse for the excursion. It was so enjoyable, it somehow had to be justified.

There were two directions we could go, north or south. Our favorite was to go south we walked down toward Sheep Creek. We liked walking in the fall because the weather was cooler and there weren’t as many snakes. But even in the winter, on sunny days, you could always count on Dad to say, “Watch out, the snakes will be out sunning themselves today.”

It is somewhat amazing that in all my years of going out on those walks, I never even saw a snake while we were on a walk. I saw them of every known kind in our yard, but never any while we were out in the woods.

We’d make our way to various places where the grass was dead and look for arrowheads. I said before we never found very many, but, come to think of it, I don’t remember ever finding any at all. What we did find in abundance were “chips.” These are tiny pieces of flint that have been knocked off a bigger rock in the process of making an arrowhead. In my mind’s eye looking back into the past, I see an Indian squatting and very meticulously hitting one rock with another, knocking these chips off until the arrowhead emerged.
We found several places with these chips lying around, always in close proximity to Sheep Creek. Dad said these were places where the Indians made camp, not too far from the water. I imagine he was right.

I liked it when we found these places and always tried in my childlike way to see it from the Indian point of view. Were they following Buffalo? Did they hunt deer? Did they know the habits of snakes like my Dad did?

They walked where I walked but lived, loved, and died there before I was ever born. All I ever saw of them were piles of flint chips on the ground, and the images of them that popped into my own head.

Our day will pass just as theirs did, and on some future Thanksgiving a father and his son’s come upon a TV surrounded by turkey carcasses and beer cans. Maybe they will find people still there around them in tryptophane-induced comas. What will they make of it when they do?