DECATUR – Mildred “Millie” Hicks hadn't thought much about Donald Trump until he burst onto the political scene and pulled off a shocking presidential election victory that left legions of wrong-footed political pundits flush with embarrassment.
Hicks' early lack of interest is surprising, considering she has been the proud owner of a birdhouse-outhouse dedicated to the New York real estate mogul's storied relationship to wealth and reputation for splashing money around. The house stands about a foot tall and 5 inches deep and is wallpapered on the outside with facsimiles of $1,000 bills.
Any bird setting up residence would find a one-hole seat on the inside and even a tiny faux Sears catalog resting next to it. Everything about the construction drips with exquisite detail and it's all screwed and hinged together, built to last. And while Hicks has long admired the workmanship, she says it was only Trump's golden arc towards the presidency that made her really notice the nameplate hanging in front of the birdhouse for the first time: “Trump's Tower.”
“I looked at it a few days before Christmas and thought 'Well, I'll be darned,'” she said.
Now she realizes she is sitting on a real collector's item as the man self-billed as America's consummate businessman, whose offices are housed in the Trump Tower in New York City, prepares to seat himself in the White House.
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“Well, he's not the one that I picked,” said Hicks, a retired real estate broker. “But I know a lot of people voted for him.”
She had ended up with the birdhouse-outhouse after bidding on it at a silent auction during an annual family reunion in Nokomis. It was built by her cousin and talented woodworker, the late Wesley Cole.
“Wesley was always thinking about funny things, he had a glint in his eye,” Hicks recalled. “I remember he wanted to tell me all about the outhouse but I wasn't very interested ... I wish I had listened now.”
No fowl play will ever corrupt her outhouse as she plans to keep it as an indoor ornament and not use it as a birdhouse. The expanded copies of $1,000 bills papering the exterior also offer a rare glimpse of bank notes which are an endangered species: the Federal Reserve began taking high-denomination bills out of circulation in 1969. By 2009, only 165,372 $1,000 bills were known to exist, and eager collectors will often pay a lot more than $1,000 to acquire one.