Flag Flying Across America

By Bill Powers, VOICE vendor

Vendor Bill Powers has become an expert on flying “flags.”


Flag flying—also known as flying signs—has a bad stigma. Some people think it’s easy money for the lazy. I would suggest they try it sometime and see for themselves. It is not easy, and it makes me feel strange due to I’m the kind of person who’d rather do something for others than ask for something from others.

I’ve had very hard jobs, yet they’ve been very rewarding. One of these was working on the Mississippi River on a fleet boat. I learned to fly flags while working for carnivals. When you’re working a carnival, you have three months of downtime every winter.

I was traveling across the country during that downtime, from the west to the east. I found myself broke and basically desolate in a town northwest of Albequerque, New Mexico.

A street person saw me and asked about my situation. Then he handed me a sign and said, “Go on over there by the highway and in one hour you’ll be better.” It can be most rewarding meeting people who treat you well, almost as family.

I did what he said, and in one hour I received about $40. That sounds like a lot of money easy, but there’s more to it than that. A person receives about the same amount of money if it takes one hour or five hours—a phenomenon I’ve observed no matter the city or neighborhood. There appears to be a mystery involved in it.

The #1 flag flown is “Hungry.” Some fly a flag or sign that says “Homeless.” I do not; America is my home sweet home. I’m home, home on the range, etc. My number one sign to fly is “Disabled.” It is true, and that’s big with me. When I fly in Florida, I’ll try many different signs.

I’ve tried bizarre signs inspired by my carnival days: “Envisioning a six-foot man eating chicken.” I’m not quite six feet tall, though, and people didn’t get the joke. That got me strange looks, but no money.

One popular slogan is “Why lie, I need a beer.” I do not fly this one but it is very interesting. The interesting thing is, I once saw a man flying this who did better than all us others around. In addition to making $38, people actually gave him beer. He gave the beer away to other people. Turns out he didn’t even drink.

Sometimes I write something to appeal to a particular audience. “M-16 Bingo” works well with Vietnam vets. “My dot gov. sucks” worked well. I like to keep up with the news and use that if I can. Sometimes if “Disabled” wasn’t working, I’d slap a smaller sign over it that said “Hungry,” like a realtor’s SOLD sign. I’ve flown “Disabled, I’m dancing as fast as I can.” That got me my $20 for the day.

So that’s my take on the issue, and remember—a six-foot man eating chicken.


Bill ■