Thanksgiving Warnings

By James Wigderson
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute

Thanksgiving. For many of us, Thanksgiving inspires memories of our families getting together, watching football, eating a giant family meal, and then going into a Tryptophan coma. It’s also a happy day when we come together as a country and give thanks, presumably to a god or gods, for the many blessings our country has received.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that has its origin in the meetings of the Pilgrim settlers and the local Native Americans. It would later be officially celebrated under President Abraham Lincoln, now playing in a theater near you, albeit to better reviews than in 1865.

Thanksgiving is such a happy time for almost all of us. But over at the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs (DMA), they’re at DefCon 1, awaiting Turkey Armageddon. Since there is little chance of an attack by Canada this year, the DMA has issued a warning about one of America’s favorite holidays: Thanksgiving will kill you.

“ReadyWisconsin wants you and your family to be safe. Following these simple tips during the Thanksgiving weekend can save you from heartaches, headaches and potential dangers.”

Thanks to the Ghost of Bob LaFollette, we have a state government agency to save us from the Turkey invasion. I’m sure the entire state government swung into action when a wild turkey hit a power line and knocked power near Sheboygan recently. Fortunately it appears to have been a rogue turkey element and not a coordinated attack.

DMA warns that driving on Thanksgiving can be really dangerous. They suggest you check with another state agency, the Department of Transportation (DOT), to see which roads are safe. Unfortunately, the DOT does not have a listing of all of the roundabouts they created so the circles of death may be just over the next hill.

DMA also suggests keeping at least a half a tank of gas in your vehicle at all times. Some people see the tank as half-full, but the pessimists at DMA see the tank as half-empty. You could die if you get trapped going round and round on a roundabout and the gas runs out, leaving you with no heat.

Should you be lucky enough to survive the trip to Grandma’s house (less likely to be impersonated by a wolf thanks to the new hunting season), Grandma’s cooking could kill you.

“Each year more than 4,000 fires occur on Thanksgiving Day.”

If 4,000 fires sounds like a lot, it is. Thanksgiving is such a deadly disaster that the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) took a moment from hurricane relief to create its own website for Thanksgiving fires. However, FEMA says there are only 2,000 residential fires each year. The peak time for these fires is between noon and 1:00 PM, with most of the fires occurring before 4:00 PM. That means after the second football game kickoff you can relax with the pumpkin pie without fear.

If 2,000 fires sounds like a lot, the National Fire Protection Association said there were only 1,370 fires on Thanksgiving in 2010. No government agency has a report that I have been able to find on how many fires were started by frustrated government bureaucrats disagreeing with each other.

Regardless of the actual number of fires nationwide, the state government is happy to tell you the reason they occurred.

“Leading cause of fires: unattended cooking.”

Grandma, don’t take your eye off that turkey. Or the gravy. Or the stuffing. Or the green bean casserole. Or the sweet potatoes. Or the mashed potatoes. And Heaven have mercy if there is pumpkin pie.

To be fair, a former colleague of mine did have a major cooking accident one year. He deep-fried a turkey in his garage. Discovering that worked so well, the next time he tried two deep fryers. The combined heat from the fryers caused the overhead garage door to catch on fire, setting fire to the house. If only a government agency had warned him that heat can cause fire! The good news is, he saw the whole thing and never left the turkeys unattended until the fire department arrived. DMA would have been so proud of him.

The DMA, with all of the resources of the state government behind it, has some other sound cooking advice, including such gems as, “Set timers to keep track of turkeys and other food items that require extended cooking times.” Cooking until the smoke alarm goes off is frowned upon.

I might question the following advice, “Keep potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, and other items away from your stovetop.” It would seem contrary to the next government observation, “Cooking-related burns are common at Thanksgiving.” Burns are especially common in those households that keep potholders and oven mitts away from the stovetop. Perhaps more government research is needed to determine the proper Personal Protection Equipment necessary, including OSHA-approved storage of such items during the cooking process.

The DMA’s ReadyWisconsin website does encourage people to click a link to learn more safety tips for surviving the homicidal holiday known as Thanksgiving, but the link refers us back to the original list of safety tips.

Should you keep cans of gasoline next to the stove? Should you trust your drunken brother-in-law with the electric carving knife? What kind of eye protection is needed when pulling apart the wishbone? You’ll just have to figure these things out on your own. Unless, of course, we give the state DMA more money to answer these questions.