The 12 Biggest 'Little' Mysteries of Fall — Solved!

Is this turkey dinner going to knock me out?

Turkey day naps, fall, autumn

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

You've probably felt pretty sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner. And, if you're like many Americans, you've probably blamed it on that dang turkey. This food contains a relatively high amount of the compound tryptophan, which converts into the sleep hormone melatonin in the body. High concentrations of tryptophan in isolation may indeed make a person sleepy. Tryptophan supplements were common sleep aids in the 1980s, but they were banned in 1991 after being linked to a painful flu-like illness called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome.

Your drowsiness after Thanksgiving dinner, though, probably comes from the work of eating mountains of carbohydrates, which prompt the release of insulin, and drinking alcohol, which depresses the nervous system.

What happens when you drop a turkey from a plane?

turkey drop, fall, autumn

(Image credit: Andy Shupe/The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/AP)

First, the answer: You get in trouble. Second, the real question: Why is this a question? The answer is Yellville, Arkansas.

This town of just over 1,000 residents in north-central Arkansas was long famous for its Turkey Trot festival in which a local pilot dropped live turkeys from a small plane about 500 feet (150 meters) up. Domestic turkeys can't fly, but they can flap, so most (but not all) of the birds were able to slow themselves enough to survive the experience. According to Arkansas' KY3 TV station, the tradition started after World War II as an effort to bolster the local turkey population; for the first few years, turkeys were simply dropped from the courthouse roof.

The plane-dropping practice has been controversial since at least the 1980s, and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) weighed in against the practice in 2011. The event went back to the courthouse roof for a few years, before some local rebels started with the airplanes again, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. An exasperated Yellville Chamber of Commerce announced in 2018 that it would no longer sponsor the festival. The local Rotary Club took over, giving Yellville one last chance.

"If somebody drops a turkey," the club's committee chair told KY3, "they have killed Turkey Trot. There will not be another one."

The festival took place on Oct. 12 and Oct. 13, 2018. There are no reports that anyone dropped a turkey.

Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.