Upfront: Tree tidings

“Trump Tree” on county line becomes stage for political pleas

By Tom Gogola

A signage war on the Sonoma-Marin County border on Red Hill Road reached a state of edgy ceasefire recently as competing pro- and anti-Donald Trump sentiments have been eliminated from public view. It was a terse and vicious rhetorical battle in a rancher-heavy part of the North Bay, a signage set-to whose various battles found symmetry in the escalating violence surrounding Trump and his supporters.

The first sign appeared around three months ago, on a side-of-the-road tree with a trunk that angled out into the road, right over the Sonoma border in Marin County.

It read, in plain military-style stencil: “Vote Trump.” Not long after it popped up, the sign disappeared, just like that. But then another sign appeared, a little higher up the tree, sturdier and yellow and sheathed in plastic. It read, “Trump 2016.” A real attention-grabber.

The sign apparently presented a too-juicy target for anti-Trump sentiment, and soon thereafter—and right around the time that Trump supporters were sucker-punching protesters and his campaign manager was manhandling a reporter—the entire middle of the sign was gouged out by what we’ll assume was the application of a large rock.  

The embattled and broken-down signage toughed it out for awhile, its gaping wound of victimhood there for the world to see—but was soon met with competing messages that started to appear on cement retaining walls located right near the Trump Tree, along the road.

“Trump = Hate” appeared one day, just yards from the Trump Tree, which appeared to spark a reaction from the Trump Tree sign-hanger, who took down the broken sign and reinstalled the “Vote Trump” stencil sign.

“Trump = Hate” stuck around for a few days before it was painted over, and right around then, at the beginning of April, the stencil-signage was gone, too.

Now there’s just a blank rectangle of wood on the Trump Tree. That was an interesting development, as it came when Trump was making a complete ass of himself during a March 30 Wisconsin town hall meeting hosted by MSNBC.

Most media reports about that town hall emphasized Trump’s suggestion that women who get abortions should be punished. But when a Wisconsin rancher asked Trump a question about undocumented labor in that state’s ranching economy, Trump changed the subject to California wine country grape-growers. Those are not the same thing, and there’s a little bit of a history that tells a story of King Grape’s emergence and dominance in the North Bay, sometimes at the expense of ranchers (and especially in Napa County).

Is the Trump Tree sign-hanger having second thoughts? Can’t say, but very shortly thereafter, the previously pro-Trump sign in ranch country went blank—as if waiting for another, better candidate who knows the difference between a cow and a grape.

“F**ck Trump” soon appeared on another nearby retaining wall, to drive the point home; it, too, has since been painted over.

As of this week, all is quiet on Red Hill Road and Trump is steamrolling toward a victory in the GOP primary with a big win in New York and new polls showing that he’s blowing Ted Cruz out of the water in California, whose primary is on D-Day plus one, June 7. Whether Trump’s attempted pivot to a “more presidential” public posture in recent days will be rewarded with a new Trump Tree sign of support—that remains to be seen.

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