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Scott Hollifield: Dangerous toys -- Santa explains it all in a dream

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For the last 50 years, World Against Toys Causing Harm Inc. (WATCH) has released its annual 10 Worst Toys list just in time to ruin — I mean — just in time for Christmas.

These toys, no matter how fun they seem, have the potential to send little Jackson to the emergency room, leaving his parents with a huge insurance copay as a present.

For more than a dozen of those 50 years of naughty lists, I’ve churned out a column highlighting some of the more ridiculous toys.

Imagine my delight when WATCH issued this year’s press release on Nov. 16 explaining why “Disney Raya’s Action & Adventure Sword,” “Dingray Musical Bath Toy,” “Bunny Rabbit Cuddly Pillow,” and other toys should be set aflame on the town square.

“Yes,” I said. “Another easy column for the holiday season.”

I went to bed that night with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.

That did not last long

I fell into a dream, a dream that took me on a trip to a faraway land and cast the WATCH list in a new light. Here is that dream:


The features editor, a no-nonsense woman of a certain age, a newspaper veteran whose blood ran one part printer’s ink, two parts black coffee, looked down at the copy, then back up at me, peering over the top of readers perched on the bridge of her nose.

“Every year,” she said. “A new dangerous toy list and every year a snarky column about that list. Essentially, the same column. You could do this in your sleep.”

“Actually ma’am, I think I am.”

“Enough! If there is one thing I learned from Elon Musk, it’s how to be a demanding boss. This year, no review of toys, no guest column from Santa. Go to the North Pole, get nose to nose with the old man and grill him about these dangerous toys. If you can’t do that, clean out your desk.”

“If you recall ma’am, I work from home now.”

“Then clean out your home.”

After changing planes in Atlanta, a layover in Seattle and a 30-minute Uber sleigh ride, I found myself knocking on the door of Santa’s workshop.

“Ho, ho, hold on a minute,” bellowed a voice from inside. “Can’t a fellow see a man about a reindeer in peace.”

He opened up and eyed me suspiciously.

“If you’re from the government,” he said, “I’m breaking no child labor laws. Those are full-grown elves in the back. And they are all documented, so you can’t fly any of them to Martha’s Vineyard.”

“No, sir,” I said. “I’m a journalist here discuss this year’s dangerous toy list.”

“Oh, for the love of — come on in, son,” he said.

Just then an elf burst into the room.

“Santa, I’ve got this list from Jackson and he wants a ‘Mr. Machete with Real Chopping Action.’”

“Put him down for an art set,” Santa said. “The kid needs a little culture.”

He turned his attention back to me.

“Any toy can be dangerous. I remember that first list 50 years ago. ‘Stick’ and ‘rock’ were on it because of potential poking and blunt-force trauma dangers. The WATCH folks are fine people. The elves and I, we look out for the kids. Now, the parents, those are the knuckleheads buying garbage like ‘Mr. Machete with Real Chopping Action,’ which didn’t even make this year’s list.”


I awoke from my dream with a start and a realization. Maybe, just maybe, if we didn’t buy crap, unscrupulous manufacturers would stop making crap.

But that’s too easy, I thought. So I went back to sleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.

Scott Hollifield is editor of The McDowell News and a humor columnist. Contact him at

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