As the Industrial Revolution changed the rural American landscape, two men set out on their separate journeys to find a different life, coming together as they cross the San Juan Mountains. One of the travelers is a young man who is leaving the family farm that can no longer sustain him. The other, older and once a Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt, is a woodcutter who helped lay the tracks for the railroads crossing the continent.
“It’s an adventure book about betrayal, forgiveness and leadership,” said Jerry Slauter about his book, "Woodcutter’s Revival" (wileystudio.smugmug.com; $14.95 soft bound, $9.95 Nook and Kindle editions). “It’s a compilation of several incidents I loosely based on the history of that time and also what has happened throughout my life and the personal lessons I’ve learned.”
Slauter, a graduate of Knox High School and Ball State University where he received a master's in education, said that in ways his book is inspired by the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” with its haunting theme of regret and wonder of what might have been if another path had been chosen.
A retired school teacher who lives in LaPorte, Slauter said he wrote the book to entertain but also hopes that it will be thought provoking.
“I wanted people to think about the differences between being born in one era rather than another and what that is like,” he said. “And also to compare and contrast political leanings and leadership styles a century or so ago.”
Slauter said his life experiences — including owning and running several small businesses such as a carpet cleaning company and also working in government military production — and some of the knocks he’s taken along the way helped him in writing "Woodman’s Revival."
“My main career has been teaching,” said Slauter, who remembers returning to Knox High School as an educator and feeling as though he had stepped into the past. “And that’s always been my focus — both in the classroom and in the life lessons we learn every day.”
The book is illustrated by Scott “Doc” Wiley, a college friend of Slauter’s for more than 40 years. Wiley, who lives in Alexandria, Va., not only has been drawing since age 3 but also retired from the Army where he served as a tank commander and combat correspondent in Vietnam as well as serving three deployments to Afghanistan. He has a doctorate in art education from Ball State University and his illustrated portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln hang in the courthouse in Tippecanoe County, Ind.
Writing the "Woodcutter’s Revival" has been a long process for Slauter who started the novel in 1988 and then shelved it for a while.
“Every once in awhile I would take it down, do some more writing and then put it away again,” he said. “Then I finally said to myself — just write it or forget about it, so I finished it in about four months.”