2006.12.13 They call me Lackbeard

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

I’d never want to be marooned on a desert island for six years, but not for the reasons you’d think.

I actually think it would be a pretty interesting experience to spend a few years like Robinson Crusoe on a tropical atoll with nothing to keep me company but coconuts and a herd of feral goats. The problem is, nobody would believe me if I did.

When my rescuers finally showed up, the discourse would go something like:

Jeff: Thank goodness you’re here! I’ve been awaiting rescue for ages!

Rescuer: Relax, buddy. You’ve been here what? Three days?

Jeff: What are you talking about? The ship I was on sank six years ago!

Rescuer: If you’ve been on this abandoned island for so long, where’s your beard?

Jeff: [After a long pause] I have no good answer to that.

I’m among the approximately 4,000 American men between the ages of 18 and 122 who go beardless each year. Sure, I have facial hair, but it grows in careless, inconsistent splotches that kind of remind me of my cleaning habits. If I go three or four days without shaving children laugh at me and dogs bark at me on the street.

I’ve wanted a beard since seventh grade, when I had geography with the delightfully bearded Mr. Fincham.

Mr. Fincham would’ve been an unremarkable teacher were it not for his remarkably remarkable stories. He once brought in a wood stake he said was from Transylvania, claiming it could have been used on a vampire hunt. Another time, he showed us a katana given to him by a World War II veteran. It was procured after the soldier shot a Japanese commanding officer charging at him in a last ditch banzai attack.

The best story of all was the one he told to warn us against tipping back in our chairs.

When he was in high school, Mr. Fincham had a close female friend who was “very bright and just very charming. She was just really very bright and had the whole world ahead of her.” That’s how Mr. Fincham spoke.

One day, Mr. Fincham’s friend tipped back too far, fell over, and knocked her head on the floor so hard her skull broke and little pieces of bone stuck into her brain. When he went to visit her in the hospital, he found her screaming silently in pain—her voice was gone by then. She was clutching her bedside railing with such violent force that her hand had turned black and blood oozed from her fingernails.

“It took her two weeks to die,” he said gravely.

And nobody ever sat down in Mr. Fincham’s class again.

I admired Mr. Fincham’s deftness at terrorizing middle schoolers—after all, they were, and continue to be, my worst enemy. Consequently, I admired his massive beard, which he periodically combed after setting us to work in our outdated geography books. It is, to this day, my belief that I would be at the forefront of beard achievement had I not slighted my idol.

The summer between seventh and eighth grade, I took to reading the stack of old National Geographics my grandpa sent me and stumbled across a startling factoid. And so, on the first day of school, as Mr. Fincham started into his anti-tipping anecdote, I raised my hand in interruption.

“Mr. Fincham, your story can’t be true,” I proclaimed. “I read that the brain doesn’t have pain nerves, so she couldn’t have been in as much pain as you said she was!”

Mr. Fincham grabbed his beard in surprise, assuring us that he would never lie to his students. Still, he said wouldn’t tell the story until he could provide proof that it was true. For one day, we sat comfortably. That night, Mr. Fincham phoned his doctor friend.

“It was brain swelling that caused the pain,” he explained to us the next day after another terrorizing telling       of the story. He looked me dead in the eye. “Brain swelling. The brain may not feel pain, but the skull does when the brain swells into it.”

My classmates grumbled, pushing back their chairs and climbing to their feet. Several hair follicles on my face and neck shrunk back into my skin, never to be seen again. It seems Mr. Fincham placed a call to a few of his friends on the U.S. Board of Beard Determination as well.

So, I guess the moral of the story is that if you ever want people to believe you’ve had a prolonged stay on a desert island, never challenge a bearded middle school teacher.

    - Dec. 13, 2006 
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.snake
    Lannis Smith of the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor shows off a python last week at Stair District Library's Summer Reading Program.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.rock Study
    ROCKHOUNDS—From the left, Joseph McCullough, Sean Pagett and Jonathan McCullough peer through hand lenses to study rocks. The project is part of Morenci Elementary School’s summer camp that continues into August.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017