As Thanksgiving rolls around so does the thought of turkeys. No – not those proverbial in-laws that show up around the holidays purely to contribute their unsolicited opinions. You know. The ones you call “turkeys.” Not those.

I’m talking about the bird that adorns the Thanksgiving table. But in fact, I’m even deviating from the turkeys we usually eat. I want to discuss those turkeys that were here when the Pilgrims settled this great land we call America, i.e. wild turkeys.

I will discuss various aspects of “the turkey,” but as an optometrist I must, or at least will, start by addressing the vision of the American wild turkey. 

Looking at a turkey head-on you’ll notice you can’t see either eye, for crying out loud! The central vision of the left eye has nothing to do with the central vision of the right eye, although there is some overlap because each eye has about 270 degrees of vision. Unlike us they do not have binocular central vision. They turn their heads to look at you directly, one eyed, which means the other is looking somewhere else. Confusing!? Oh, and they can see colors.

One source I found says that turkeys have human vision x10. I don’t think so. Another source said x3. Well okay maybe. A better reference said, “If you can see a turkey – it’s already seen you.” Not only can an old longbow hunter like me identify with that statement – I can verify it.

If you’ve ever harvested a wild turkey, you’ll have to admit that the amount of meat they provide is a paucity compared to Thanksgiving variety from the supermarket. They also lack that distinctive turkey-taste. Not that they aren’t good; they just taste different.

One source I ran across mentioned Lewis and Clark had eaten a turkey and it was very unpleasant. It went on to suggest maybe they ate a turkey vulture. Such a mistake seems unlikely. The American turkey vulture is one nasty animal. They have a funny defense tactic. They puke on you. Enough said this close to Thanksgiving.

It’s also said that turkey meat makes you sleepy because of tryptophan – a chemical found in turkey meat. It’s an essential amino acid. It is needed to make serotonin, a brain chemical that helps with relaxation, but tryptophan is also found in similar amounts in other poultry, beef, pork, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs. So, is the lethargic aftermath because of the turkey or mashed potatoes + cranberry sauce + homemade bread + pumpkin pie + turkey and … well … the wine? My, what we do to ourselves at the Thanksgiving table.

Well anyway, enjoy your Thanksgiving, and don’t forget to thank God for all that we have in this wonderful country. If you can think of a better place, contact me about it. On second thought, don’t bother. If you can think of one, there’s something wrong with you, and I’d rather you didn’t ruin a perfectly great holiday.