"Well, it's beyond anything I could have imagined," said flag seller Paul B. Swenson, owner of Colonial Specialty Co., 9474 S. 560 West, Sandy.

"Going into the winter we were overstocked with flags and flag kits, stuff that we thought would last into the summer. They were all sold in three days."The company would be cleaned out of flags by now, except that it just located about 1,200 flags in a warehouse that Swenson had nearly forgotten about. As it is, Swenson thinks he has one of the largest remaining stocks of American flags in three states.

In fact, flags are selling out across the country. The upsurge in patriotism sparked by the start of hostilities in the Persian Gulf caught dealers by surprise.

These people are buying American flags:

- Families that want to get the national emblem up on their homes before sons or husbands leave for the field of combat.

- The general public, which is buying at phenomenal rates, by far the biggest increase in sales. "They want to respond to the protests," Swenson said. People are fed up with the protesters and also want to show their support of the troops.

"There's a lot of people that feel patriotic right now." Some represent businesses that decorate their buildings with flags.

- "There's a handful - maybe two or three of them - that want to get them to burn. We've had them ask how they burn."

Swenson stressed that he can't control what happens to the flags once they leave

his shop. But he won't spend much time with the flag arsonists. "I'm too patriotic for that."

He's even sold a few Iraqi flags that were also destined for the flames.

"We're busier now than any fourth of July," he said.

Personally, he's stunned by the war.

Swenson has worked or studied in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. "I've got constant butterflies," he said.

When he sees reports of Iraq's Scud missiles roaring toward Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, he thinks of his friends living there. "It's devastating. It's just a gripping experience."

Because the war affects his business, "we have a steady stream of people all day talking about it, so I can't get it off my mind."