As I walked out the front doors of my church last Sunday, I couldn’t help but notice, in the parking lot of Highland Hardware, several brightly colored flags whipping in the wind. Curious, I meandered across Spring Street to take a look at the tent set up there.
“Come on in,” said a guy wearing a t-shirt that said VETERANS FOR TRUMP. “Can I interest you in some Donald Trump merchandise?”
I shook my head and tried my best not to roll my eyes. “I’m just here to look and learn,” I said, flipping open my reporter’s pad. “Would you mind telling me your name?”
The man told me he was Norman Forbush from Ohio. He travels the country selling t-shirts and coffee mugs and ball caps and beer koozies and lots of other stuff. He calls his movable store the Traveling Trump Stand. I asked why he did it, expecting that he’d wax philosophical about the importance of re-electing Mr. Trump. But that’s not what he said. “I do it to make money,” he told me. “You can’t buy this stuff anywhere else. Even Walmart won’t carry it.”
“Ah,” I said.
A female customer gushing over some KEEP AMERICA GREAT ballpoint pens asked why I was taking notes. I told her I write for a newspaper. “You better say good things about President Trump,” she said, wagging her finger at me. “Fake news is against him but real Americans love him.”
Norman smiled beatifically at the woman. “This lady’s got a right to her own opinion,” he told her. “It’s guaranteed in the Second Amendment.”
“Ummmm…that’s the right to bear arms amendment,” I said, pointing to a postcard picturing a semi-automatic rifle and the words DEFEND THE SECOND AMENDMENT.
“Oh, yeah,” Norman said. “Well, the right to your own opinion is in one of the other amendments.”
I asked which items were his biggest sellers. “Flags, for sure,” he said. “I can’t hardly keep them in stock.” He had some interesting ones in his inventory. The DON’T TREAD ON ME rattlesnake was featured on both a gold flag and on a Confederate flag. Speaking of Confederate flags, Norman’s collection included a flag that was half Stars-and-Stripes and half Stars-and-Bars. “It helps people understand history better,” he explained. Of course there was a GOD, GUNS AND GUTS flag. Most prominent was an American flag with a thumbs-up likeness of Donald Trump and the words MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN stamped right in the middle of it.
I asked Norman what kind of feedback he was getting from the people of our fair city. “Just great,” he said. “Every now and then someone will stop at the red light and yell out an obscenity, but most people have been very welcoming.”
If you’d like to visit the Traveling Trump Stand for yourself, either to shop or to gawk, Norman plans to be open until around 5:30 this afternoon. Then he’s moving on.
(June 9, 2019)