Author – Robert Earl Winter
Retired Sheriff Bob Winter (Santa Clara County, Californian) now lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills with his wife Carolyne and their dog, Molly. He is as comfortable in his workshop with home improvement projects, wood carving, exotic wooden chests, garden art, and birdhouses as he is with researching American and family history.
Bob was raised on a dairy farm in southern Santa Clara County, facing many of the same experiences he ascribes to his principal character, Jesse Logan, a name he borrowed from a great-grandfather. To some extent, the story Bob writes mirrors his own life story, finding his way from a deputy sheriff amongst the 5,000 member force of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to the position of Sheriff of Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley), California, defeating his boss, the incumbent sheriff, in a hotly contested political race in 1978. Like many of our readers, he has never been without hostile opposition in his own career, whether it be from a disgruntled but politically connected co-worker, or a superior officer critical of his often-impulsive approach to his work as a peace officer.
The story he has provided weaves history, family tradition, and fiction as Bob follows the life of a young man from boyhood to adulthood, from the Great Smokey Mountains to Carson Valley, Nevada, with the Mormon movement and thence through the course of the Civil War. The hero’s experiences as a boy in ‘Carson County’, Utah Territory qualified him to take an assignment in the Union Army as a rifleman, or ‘sharpshooter’, leading him through some near-death experiences to finally survive the war.
The story follows actual events throughout the Civil War, using authentic members of the opposing armies as support characters for the adventures and misadventures of the principal characters. The author has mirrored the character and personalities of people in his own life. They provide authenticity to the players in his tale.
It is often stated that the Civil War was simply a product of the south’s interest in maintaining the ‘peculiar institution’ of slavery, but there were many, many other factors, attitudes, and emotions that played into the decision to secede from the Union. In his work, the author tries to explore some of those attitudes and how they affected the interaction between friends and neighbors. States’ rights, federal intervention, Supreme court decisions, foreign trade, peer pressure, and personal dignity, all-important even today, were just some of the issues that influenced people’s attitudes, their decisions to support one side or the other, and their relationships with their neighbors.
But attitudes change. Exhaustion sets in and reality evolves. Issues that seemed important at the beginning of the conflict often lose their luster toward its closing days, yet the intransigence of the higher authorities of the South keep the conflict going. The story encounters two or three situations where this phenomenon prevails.
Many of the characters in Sheriff Winter’s story are recreations of real people including some of his own family who settled first in Guilford County, North Carolina where his own 4th great-grandfather was a colonel in the British occupational army, leading the British forces against members of his own family in the American Revolution. Later in the family history, they settled in the Carson Valley leaving their mark in both of those places. One product of 2rd great-grandfather Ben Jones’ handiwork can be seen in the Mormon Station Museum in Genoa, Nevada, and the ‘town’ of Spurgeon, Tennessee was named for some of Bob’s own ancestors.
Bob’s family has been in cattle ranching for generations and several of the supporting characters in the story are taken from tales of the old west as conveyed by Bob’s father Rowland Winter. In some places, he has used the actual names and personalities of real people in his past, and in other places he uses pseudonyms for obvious reasons.