By Samantha Hayes, in Charleston, W.Va.
May 14, 2008
The "Hill Mobile" is moving on. On from the hills of West Virginia to the famed blue grass of Kentucky. The man behind the wheel is 80-year-old Larry Hicks. The WWII veteran and former union leader has driven his "Hill Mobile" to 18 states and while he may not be an official part of the campaign, he says as long as his candidate is in the race, he'll be on the road.
Hicks had parked his creation outside Clinton's campaign office in Charleston, West Virginia. The van is covered in hundreds of signatures from the many places he's been: Josh from Johnstown, Pennsylvania wrote "Hot for Hillary," Carol Young from Locust Grove Virginia signed "Girls Rule," and you can find the signature of Rosco Bates on the passenger side sliding door.
On the campaign trail, I've seen this sort of grand display of affection for a presidential candidate before. In Des Moines, Iowa I wrote about a young college student who turned his vehicle into the "Ron Paul Mobile." But this isn't Larry Hicks' first rodeo.
Hicks told me he goes "way back" with the Clintons. He became a big fan of Bill Clinton after meeting him in Arkansas in 1977. Hicks was wearing a hat from the former President's campaign. He covered up "Bill" with a "Hillary" sticker.
"She's got the gall, and the get up and go to get it done," Hicks exclaimed, a line I could tell he had delivered with gusto before. Hicks is so loyal that he won't hear talk of crossing the line to support Republican John McCain if Clinton doesn't become the Democratic nominee. "I'm a Democrat and I have been a Democrat since 1948."
I was looking at his van while we were talking and it occurred to me that something else must be fueling his enthusiasm for Clinton- literally. It had to cost quite a lot of money to follow her on the campaign trail. Hicks said more than anything, Americans should be excited about the democratic process, and this is how he shows his patriotism. But he also added that "these kinds of things keep us elderly people going, physically and mentally."
It may also be the kind of show of support that keeps his candidate going. Clinton is heading to Kentucky soon where she expects another big victory. Hicks and the "Hill Mobile" will be there, too.