Ray Duckler: In a sign of the times, Trump loyalists make their voices heard

  • Joe and Linda McCoy stand in front of the 52-foot trailer that her son painted on their property on Rt. 107 in Pittsfield, NH Tuesday, August, 8, 2016. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Joe McCoy expresses his support of Donald Trump in front of the 52-foot trailer his stepson Brian Bales painted in front of his home on Rt. 107 in Pittsfield, N.H. on Tuesday, August, 9, 2016. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Brian Bales (right) stands with his fiancee, Nancy Benson, in front of the trailer that Bales painted on Route 107 in Pittsfield. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Joe and Linda McCoy in front of the 52-foot trailer her son Brian Bales painted into a Trump sign in front of their property on Rt. 107 in Pittsfield, N.H., August 8, 2016. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Joe and Linda McCoy stand in front of the 52-foot trailer emblazoned with “TRUMP!” in Pittsfield. The trailer was painted by Brian Bales, Linda’s son. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Joe McCoy raises his arms in praise of the Trump sign his stepson Brian Bales created on his property on Rt. 107 in Pittsfield, N.H, August, 8, 2016. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Joe McCoy traces his family heritage back to the McCoys of the Hatfields and McCoys. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Linda McCoy is vocal about her support of Donald Trump and her disdain of both the president and Hillary Clinton. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Published: 8/11/2016 12:29:48 AM

We drove up Route 107 in Pittsfield searching for something really big.
Beyond his hands, anything connected to Donald Trump is always really big, right? In the distance, perhaps 200 yards away, at the crest of the road, the sign appeared like a Trump speech, blowing your hair back, smacking you upside the head so you’d take notice, shaking you so you had no choice but to listen.

The white letters on the green background, spanning the length of a 52-foot trailer on the McCoy property, read “TRUMP!”

We knew we were in for some down-to-earth, straight-from-the-heart, shoot-from-the-hip dialogue.

And we got it. That’s why we went.

“It’s no different than Trump supporters who want to go out and buy a Trump sign,” Brian Bales, a 21-year-old iron worker, told me during his lunch break. “I’d rather be painting one and have people drive by and they have to see it on the hill. BAM! There’s the Trump sign.”

And BAM! Trump is still with us, edging closer to the White House. Like Trump himself, Bales, who created the sign with rollers and spray paint, used exclamation points when he spoke, not to mention a few words we can’t print here.

So did his mother, 58-year-old Linda McCoy, her voice raspy and deep from years of smoking, her eyes piercing, engulfing me when she defended her candidate.

The patriarch, Joe McCoy, is 60, a bit more soft spoken than his wife and stepson, but no less passionate when supporting his choice for president and his animosity toward the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. He has long, straight blond hair down to his shoulders, a blond mustache and more dragons on his arms than a Game of Thrones episode.

“The No. 1 thing is he’s going to bring all those jobs back to America,” Joe said. “He knows how to bring business back here, and if he brings it back here, there’s going to be a lot of people who are out of work who are going to work. They’ll bring up their kids right, they’ll get jobs. If it’s Hillary, you’re broke. Another four years of you’re broke.”

Bales’s fiancee, 21-year-old Nancy Benson, sat with us in the breeze, a petite woman who preferred to listen but made her allegiance clear.

“People are going to say what they want to say,” said Benson, an assistant pharmacy technician who lives with Bales down the street from the McCoy home. “I do like Trump. He’s truthful. You have to be truthful. Change is good.”

While Benson didn’t say much, her words said a lot during her brief time in our spotlight. Trump is, indeed, about speaking the truth, or at least his version of the truth, which has been brought into question over and over.

But that’s not the point here. Forget about taxes and foreign policy and jobs and health insurance. Trump is not and never has been a politician. He’s mean and tough, a sarcastic wiseass, saying things that apparently people have wanted to say for a long time.

He’s a rich businessman (not a rich lawyer), and to people like the McCoy family, that means ISIS better run for the hills, immigrants better shape up or ship out, and pocket money for America is right around the corner.

“You want to live like Americans should live,” Joe said. “We’re born and raised to live as Americans from our forefathers and our grandfathers. There is a life out there, and the way we’ve been too much politically correct has made life completely obnoxious.”

Poverty, not political correctness, was part of Joe and Linda’s lives while growing up, he in Ayer, Mass., she in Rhode Island. Food stamps, handouts, tough streets and working at 14 years old to contribute to the family were the nuggets I heard about from their backgrounds.

Now, Joe limps noticeably after a fall three years ago while working construction, a union job he said once paid him $100,000 a year. One of his knees was snapped like a twig during surgery and fused, while Linda has arthritis and neck pain, leaving both on disability, which brings in $7,000 a year.

Joe said he saved money from his working days, and the two earn more money by bidding on forgotten storage units and selling what they find inside.

The stuff – signed JFK photos, figurines, old newspapers, kids’ toys, paintings, books – are sold for a modest income in what has become a retirement hobby.

With the family’s gruff exterior, their colorful grammar and language, and limited education, it was convenient to compartmentalize them as vintage Trump loyalists, something I wasn’t proud of, but did nevertheless.

They worry about Clinton taking guns away. Joe said he’s a descendant of the McCoy family that feuded with the Hatfields in West Virginia and Kentucky in the 19th century. He calls himself a “hillbilly, part of early America. We liked to drink and fight, but at least we stood up.”

Linda said “I think so,” when I asked if she and Joe represented the quintessential Trump fans.

“It’s just that the real Americans have had enough,” she said. “They’ve had enough sitting back and letting it get further and further. They’re giving away our money. They’re letting terrorists go free. Is he nuts? He’s nuts.”

“He,” of course, is President Obama, whom Linda called a racist. “He’s more racist than Trump is, I believe in my heart,” she told me. “He’s starting all this stuff up again that we have already been through 60 years ago with the blacks and the whites, and they’re going against our police departments, who we need. If we don’t have them, we’re all screwed. As much as there’s a handful of them that are no good, there’s a lot more that are good.”

By this point, I figured my stereotyping, used to make sense of things in a chaotic world, had worked, but I learned a lesson when I dug deeper, discovering that Brian’s fiancee is Puerto Rican, her dad’s name Santiago; Linda has black nieces and nephews whom she loves; plus she voted for Obama the first time around; plus she’s of Native American ancestry.

I noted that Trump has mocked the disabled and insulted lots of people. He’s even been painted as anti-baby.

Can’t you take a joke, I was asked?

“If you watch Family Guy and you like Trump, you can’t be mad about the s--- he says,” Brian said. “The dude has a sense of humor, he’s a millionaire, he don’t give a f---, he don’t care what you think. He’s going to say whatever the f--- he wants to say.”

That’s why this family loves him. That’s why a chunk of America loves him. Trump uses no filter, and voters, tired of sanitary language, tired of gridlock, tired of stagnant wages and a perceived weakness on the world stage, want action, entertainment, excitement.

It’s also why Joe discounted the recent letter signed by 50 of the GOP’s most trusted national security officials, in which they said Trump “would be the most reckless President in American history.”

“Those are the people who have been in place for years, and it’s not working,” Joe said. “So why should he pick them up? Whether they endorse him or not, that’s purely up to them.”

Then Joe said he found several newspapers in one of the storage units he’d bought, including a Monitor, dated Sept. 12, 2001. I saw them later. Huge photos showed the Twin Towers in flames.

“I show (customers) it and say this is why I’m voting for Trump,” Joe said. “I don’t want this to happen again. Someone has got to have some spunk.”

Joe likes that word, spunk. It’s why he was thrilled his stepson painted that sign on that trailer with that exclamation point.

Joe and his family have spunk. The sign has spunk. Trump has spunk.

Not everyone likes the sign, of course. People drive by and boo. Some yell something positive about Clinton. Some say something obscene about Trump. The McCoy’s across-the-street neighbor, a Clinton fan, hears Trump-supportive horns honk at 2 a.m.

And during Bike Week in June, thousands of bikers rode by the sign, waving, beeping, stopping to have their picture taken in front of it.

“Trump is strong, tells it like it is, won’t hold back no punches,” Joe said. “That’s why that trailer is out there. If I had to take it down to Washington, I’d get a tow truck, park it right down there. That’s 52 feet of Trump. People need to see it.”

No problem.

It’s big.

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

Editor’s note: This story has been changed to reflect the family makes $7,000 a year in disability. This information was incorrect in today’s article. 

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