Henceforth, it shall be known as The Bill Webster Effect.

Mr. Webster, our esteemed Lewiston school superintendent, has grown a beard so epic, it has forced me to re-evaluate everything I thought I knew about facial hair, manliness and the drive train on my 2004 Ford Ranger.

A beard so manly and adventurous that Ernest Hemingway himself would weep with envy at beholding it.

A beard so intimidating that Chuck Norris himself sleeps with the light on in fear of it.

A beard so sublime that Kimbo Slice (look it up) just bought a case of Lady Bics in deference to the new king.

Let me be clear: I have always admired Webster because he’s invariably friendly, extremely intelligent and he has a way of explaining intricate budgetary matters to simpletons like myself.

To me, he’s always been a bookish fellow, a man so comfortable with numbers he probably does trigonometry puzzles over breakfast on Sunday mornings.

I know it’s presumptuous and probably unfair, but I always pictured Mr. Webster as a fellow who probably doesn’t go anywhere, including the shower, without a pocket protector and at least one No. 2 pencil.

Irresponsible stereotype? Unquestionably — yet, there it is.

And then, on Jan. 25, a day that will live in bearditude, the Sun Journal published a photo of Mr. Webster taken during his three-month ride to the Bahamas in a boat named Salty Paws.

Call me crazy, but the bearded man staring out of that photo is not the same man I’ve seen dozens of times addressing the public on matters of school administration.

Superintendent Bill Webster looks like a fellow who might help you with a tax problem, ruminate over the relevance of the 1968 Epperson v. Arkansas decision, or spend a lazy afternoon tinkering with inverse functions.

The Bahamas Salty Paws Bill Webster is a man you’d turn to for advice replacing the rear differential axle seals on your 2004 Ford Ranger.

The Bahamas Bill Webster looks like a man who crushes beer cans after shotgunning the contents, spits tobacco juice and asks, “What bait you using?”

Salty Paws Bill Webster isn’t afraid of the dark. The dark is afraid of Salty Paws Bill Webster.

And while I have no idea whether Mr. Webster is handy with a wrench or if he shotguns Pabst Blue Ribbon while skinning deer in his garage, the beard makes me at least consider that he might.

Respect, bruh.

I understand that this new way of thinking probably says more about me than it does about Mr. Webster. One should never make assumptions based on appearance alone and on some level, I’m wise enough to know that.

That beard, though! That bearditude!

Incidentally, in the story that accompanies the beard photo, Webster describes trying to boat across an inlet 50 miles from nowhere while facing fierce winds and 10-foot waves, and I’d bet he wasn’t wearing a pocket protector while taming the Atlantic Ocean. Didn’t need one — what pen would dare drip ink upon the shirt of a man with a beard like that?

Every time I’ve interacted with the Lewiston school superintendent, I’ve addressed him formally and he’s always responded with “Please. Call me Bill.”

Thank you, sir, but no thanks. Henceforth you are Mr. Webster, because while you may not sport the beard while overseeing school business, I know it’s in there somewhere.

And I’m not taking any chances.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff reporter, who in bizarro world is so manly that hair is afraid to grow on his chiseled chops. Email him at [email protected]


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