The fighting started long before Thanksgiving Day. Brad and Dallas Woodhouse had been arguing about where the family should go for the holiday.
Their mother, Joyce, has a broken foot but wanted to cook for the family and celebrate at her Raleigh home. Brad wanted his mother to have her way, while Dallas insisted they go to a restaurant instead so Joyce could rest her leg.
Brad won the debate. For five days leading up to Thanksgiving, Dallas refused to talk to his brother.
"At least I didn’t sacrifice my mother’s health so you could watch football," Dallas said at the dinner table Thursday, accusing Brad of wanting to watch sports while his mother did all the cooking.
"I haven’t even looked at football, Dallas," Brad replied. "I just knew what my mother wanted."
"Well I know what my mother needs," Dallas said.
"You know what? We could have it your way every time when you turn 80," Brad said.
"Would you just shut up?" Joyce shouted.
The family feud is familiar to anyone who has seen political operatives Dallas and Brad Woodhouse debate on television. Dallas serves as executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, while Brad is a Democratic strategist who previously served as communications director for the Democratic National Committee.
The News & Observer was on hand as the Woodhouse family celebrated Thanksgiving this year. There was plenty of bickering, but mostly, a reporter saw fun and laughter. Conversations tended to stray away from politics. Adults didn’t want to delve too deeply into topics unfit for children’s ears, such as sexual harassment, that have dominated the news.
Dallas tossed a football outside with his two sons, Cooper and Jackson, his niece, Taylor, and his nephew, Brady. Jackson dove for the football all over the lawn and covered his pants with green and brown grass stains.
When Dallas returned to the house after playing football with the children, Brad told him Brady would deliver the annual prayer before mealtime. Minutes before the Thanksgiving prayer, Dallas walked into the children’s room with a special request to irritate Brad.
"Make sure you pray for President Trump," he told Brady.
Brady wisely decided to maintain the peace, later saying his dad would have been very unhappy if he prayed for Trump.
"I prayed for Obama all the time," Dallas said after his unsuccessful efforts. "I prayed for him to have some wisdom. It didn’t work too good."
When it came time to go around the table to say what they were thankful for, Brad omitted his brother: "I’m thankful for my momma.”
"I’m thankful that you let me have this in my house," Joyce said.
"I’m thankful that my brother can visit from Washington and then soon return," Dallas said.
At the kid’s table, Cooper, Jackson, Taylor and Brady made a ruckus in front of the television set. Asked if he would want to follow in his father’s footsteps by getting into politics, Cooper shook his head.
"I wouldn’t cuss for work," Cooper said.
"Dad doesn’t cuss for work," Jackson corrected.
One topic kept popping up. As Joyce cooked, refused to rest her leg and didn’t ask for help in the kitchen, Dallas fumed with anger.
"She won’t sit down," Dallas said. "That’s why I didn’t want to do this."
"My mother’s stubborn. When she doesn’t want to do something, she won’t do it. I guess it runs in the family."
"I wanted people here in my house," Joyce said. "I didn’t want to go out to eat."
After Brad collected dinner plates and Dallas refused to help, the brothers appeared to grow angrier at each other.
"See, he’s a big help," Brad said, pointing at Dallas as he collected his plate.
Dallas gave Brad the middle finger. Shaking his head, he replied, "Brad wanted one thing. I wanted another. Brad wins. That’s how it works."
The day was anything but peaceful. In the middle of prayer, someone’s cell phone ringtone blasted on full volume. During the meal, a dog loudly clawed the outdoor window as the family enjoyed the food. At every possible moment of silence, a new commotion brewed.
The Woodhouses wouldn’t have it any other way.