Jim Kenyon: Dueling signs in Post Mills

  • Jim Kenyon. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Columnist
Published: 10/3/2020 8:02:31 PM
Modified: 10/3/2020 11:03:24 PM

Harry Kinne was pulling out of his driveway in Post Mills when the oversized political sign hanging from a house on the other side of Route 113 made him do a double take.

How could it not?

The blue and white banner that Robert Cross has fastened to the front of his two-story house for everyone entering or leaving the village to see is a head-turner.

“Trump 2020: No More Bulls---.”

This being a family newspaper, I’ve omitted a few letters. But I think you get the drift of what the 68-year-old Cross, a retired Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center technician, is trying to convey.

“We like Trump,” Cross said, crediting his wife, Gina, for finding the banner, which sells for about $30 on Amazon.

Until recently, Kinne, who retired as director of safety and security at Dartmouth College in 2017, has stayed away from making his political preferences known to the outside world. “I’ve never even had a bumper sticker on my car,” he said.

After seeing his fellow villager’s handiwork, Kinne wanted a banner at the end of his driveway — just up the road from Baker’s General Store — that Route 113 travelers couldn’t miss.

“I feel very strongly that in this election our democracy is at stake,” Kinne told me.

He thought about countering Cross’ display with “Biden 2020. Trump 10 to 20.” (The banners go for about $40 online.) In the end, however, he opted for a standard Biden-Harris banner, albeit extra-large.

With the 2020 election a month away, campaign yard signs are abundant throughout the Upper Valley, partly because it doesn’t take much time or effort to stick a piece of cardboard into a front lawn.

Cross and Kinne, however, have gone to greater lengths to express their presidential preferences.

Cross, a Thetford native, needed a ladder, hardware and a drill to secure his banner 10 feet above the ground onto the side of his house.

It was the first “Bulls---” banner that I’d run across in the Upper Valley. (In rural Maine, where I was cycling this summer, they were nearly as thick as the black flies.)

Last year, a homeowner in Pleasantville, N.Y., who lived near an elementary school, drew the ire of parents and school officials for refusing to take down his porch flag with the same coarse language.

With the exception of a pleasant-enough young man who stopped to question his wisdom in supporting Trump, Cross told me he’s received only thumbs-ups from passing motorists.

In erecting his banner, Kinne used three cedar posts, a lot of rope and a 10-pound mallet. “It involved a little bit of labor, but it was a labor of love,” he said.

Last week, I showed up at Cross’ and Kinne’s homes without calling ahead. They were kind enough to give me their time.

Cross voted for Trump in 2016 and nothing has happened since to make him reconsider. Not even the president’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic?

“It’s not a problem” that Trump created, Cross said. Besides, he added, “people are getting back to work now.”

The person I should be talking with was his wife, Cross told me. “She’s a real big Trump fan,” he said.

When I asked if Gina had a few minutes, a voice drifted down from an open upstairs window: “I’m making bread.”

Cross proved capable of making the couple’s case for supporting the president on his own. He rattled off a list of what he considered Trump’s pluses.

“He’s a real person.”

“The economy is good.”

“Trump is for the working man.”

I’m not sure about any of those, but I agreed with Cross that Trump has more supporters “than people realize” or national polls indicate. To avoid disapproving relatives, friends and neighbors, many voters prefer to remain closet backers.

As Gina and Robert Cross have found, supporting Trump in a public fashion can have repercussions.

“We’ve got family members who won’t even visit us,” Cross said.

Kinne moved to Post Mills in 2003 with his late wife, Laurie, who died three years ago. She would have been even more fired up about getting Trump out of the White House than he is, he said.

In a way, I suspect the large banner at the end of the driveway — the labor of love — is a nod to her.

But Kinne also finds it easy to get behind Biden, who has promised to protect the environment, improve relations with Republicans in Congress and take the advice of scientists to combat the pandemic.

“He’ll work toward uniting Americans rather than dividing us as Trump has done,” Kinne said.

Politics aside, I was struck by how much Kinne and Cross had in common. They’re the same age. Both are retired, after working for large Upper Valley institutions. Both enjoy the outdoors — Cross is an avid deer hunter and Kinne can often be found bass fishing on nearby Lake Fairlee.

Kinne’s house sits at the far end of a large field, almost directly across Route 113 from Cross’ longtime home. But over 17 years of living in the same village, they’ve met only in passing a few times.

“I don’t know him,” Cross told me. “He’s probably an all right guy.”

When I brought up Cross, Kinne replied, “I’m sure he’s a decent guy. We’re all passionate in our views. It doesn’t mean we should be mortal enemies.”

“I respect his opinion, I hope he respects mine.”

The large banners that Kinne and Cross have chosen to display so prominently — within a stone’s throw of each other — represent the opposite ends of where our divided country currently stands.

But political signs can only go so far in communicating a message. In talking with Cross and Kinne, I was reminded that the people who put up the signs — and why they do it — are the real story.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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