BOOTHBAY HARBOR, Maine — Linc Sample knew he would draw fire last month when he installed a new sign on the main road into Boothbay Harbor.
For years, Sample has posted signs on his property, causing various levels of controversy, including one in 2015 that featured a Confederate flag. In September, his “Black Rifles Matter” sign, placed prominently at the edge of his property on Townsend Avenue, drew letters from tourists accusing him of racism and threatening to boycott the town.
Town officials lamented the complaints and the sign’s impact on the tourist haven’s national image, but took no action, saying the sign was a matter of “freedom of speech.”
This month, though, as Boothbay-area residents began decorating their homes to be seen by tens of thousands headed down Route 27 to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens holiday light show, Gardens Aglow, Sample was inspired to promote his business in a festive way.
He erected a new sign featuring a black assault rifle and flashing white lights, placed above a green-and-black mask and the blinking acronym ZIRT, which stands for Zombie Infestation Response Team.
“It’s a lot of fun, to be perfectly honest,” he said of the light contest. “People have done a really good job. That’s why I put up my sign. I realize it was a gun, but face it, guns are in our lives and I own a gun business.”
That business involves “essentially anything I do that’s gun-related,” Sample said. He sells guns and is a National Rifle Association certified trainer. By day, Sample is a contractor.
The latest sign didn’t stir as much controversy as the “Black Rifles Matter” one, but Sample removed it anyway. On Sunday, the lighted ZIRT sign came down in favor of a simple, wooden white creche scene he built and has placed in his yard for five or six years. It fits perfectly with the peaceful drive along Route 27 into Boothbay Harbor.
“I spent a lot of time painting that firearm,” he laughingly said of the ZIRT sign. “I just thought it would be fun. We’ve got this big light festival going on down here. A lot of people loved it. I haven’t heard any outrage — but I won’t hear it personally anyway. I’m not the type of guy you come up to and [complain to].
How did Sample, brother of Maine comedian Tim Sample, launch his anti-zombie business?
“I was buying a cup of coffee about four years ago with a buddy and I had a firearm on,” he said. “A woman said, ‘You’ve got a gun.’ I said, ‘Yes, I do.’ She said, ‘Why?’ Well, I was being a smartass and said, ‘It’s part of my job. I’m a zombie hunter.’ She said, ‘There are no such thing as zombies.’ And I said, ‘You’re welcome,’ and walked out.”
Sample said Monday that it truly was an oversight that the barrel of the gun, with lights surging as if they were fired, was pointed directly at the angels at Congregational Church right across the street.
“I’m right-handed and I speak English, so I read from left to right, so that’s the way I painted the gun,” he said. “I didn’t set out to go, ‘I’m going to shoot the church.’”
Sample said he’s not sure how he’s become such a “polarizing” individual.
“Some of it I bring on myself — it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “Somebody’s got to do it.”
On Monday morning, he posted a photo of the nativity scene with a quick comment: “Just so my detractors can’t say I’m completely heartless.”
So far, Sample said, no one has complained about the new decoration.