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Fred Jobe: the Singing Sheriff of Custer County

Article by Rayna Bailey

Local Artists – August 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

FRED JOBE gives new meaning to the expression, “Whistle while you work.”

Although the lanky six-foot-four-inch lawman would never be confused with the happy-go-lucky dwarfs who made the tune popular in Disney’s Snow White, when Jobe pins his gold star on his chest and sets off to work as Custer County’s sheriff, he does it with a song in his heart.

Affectionately called the “Singing Sheriff,” Jobe wears the nickname lightly, but he wears the badge of Custer County’s top peace officer seriously.

“I think I’m realistic enough to know that I can’t make a living singing. I just enjoy letting it be a hobby — if you want to call it a hobby — in addition to what I do in law enforcement,” he says. Yet nevertheless, Jobe’s voice graces several albums, and music has been a life-long avocation for him.

“I go to the school and to different functions and talk about law enforcement and, hopefully, how to combat crime,” Jobe says. “I feel like gospel music does the same thing if I can help someone with gospel music and perhaps keep them from going down the road of crime.”

Jobe traces his passion for both music and the law back to his childhood days, growing up on a farm in Ninnekah, Okla., a rural community a stone’s throw south of Chickasha and about 100 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

“I started singing probably about the age of 10. Back then all it was singing at church,” he says. “It was a small church; there wasn’t a lot of talent in it, so they were always pushing me to do something like that,” he adds, laughing.

While admitting that in those days singing at church was a task he didn’t enjoy, he did like to watch television, like many other children in the ’50s. His heroes were the lawmen of the modern West who traveled the dusty back roads in trucks with horse trailers in tow, ready to saddle up and ride off after criminals at a moments notice, or chasing bad guys from the air behind the controls of a twin-engine Cessna.

“When I was growing up I watched a show called Texas Rangers and these guys would drive a horse trailer around with them,” says Jobe, who occasionally performs his duties from the back of a horse provided by the Forest Service. “The first time I hooked onto that horse trailer my mind went back to that show and I thought, `Boy, those guys were kind of my heroes and here I am pulling a horse trailer behind my patrol car.'”

Citing another favorite TV program, Sky King, which featured an airborne crime fighter and his niece, Penny, Jobe says, “After I became sheriff I got my pilot’s license, and I do a little law enforcement work with the plane and I thought, `Boy, here we go again.'” His sense of humor always just below the surface, Jobe continues with a laugh, “It can’t get any better than that.”

Jobe, who has been Custer County’s sheriff since 1987, says that over a 25-year span his singing and law enforcement careers have paralleled and complemented each other.

In the early 1970s, while a rookie with the Chickasha Police Department, Jobe also sang with a gospel quartet. For four years, joined by three other singers and his wife Deloris, who played bass guitar, he worked the night shift for the police department all week and traveled on weekends, singing in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. The group released an album of their popular songs in the 1970s.

Jobe and his family moved to Custer County in 1982 and he continued working in law enforcement. He has continued singing as well, performing solo in a variety of venues around the region, even traveling to Kansas for a performance, recently. In the mid-1980s he released his first solo album, Bigger Than Any Mountain. Last December, he released his second album, a collection of gospel songs with a country kick titled Natural High.

(His CDs are available at Sangre de Christo Interiors and several other shops in Westcliffe.)

DESPITE JOBE’S imposing stature — whether sitting astride a horse, working behind his desk in the sheriff’s office, or cruising around Custer County in his patrol car, a late model Chevy Tahoe — his soft voice, gentle demeanor, and quick laugh make it hard to imagine that either law enforcement or singing would be his calling, but appearances are deceiving.

“Everybody has their thing, ministry if you want to call it that,” Jobe says. “I’m not one to get out and talk about religion, I’m not comfortable doing that. But I enjoy the singing, I enjoy gospel music.” He adds that, “The only thing I regret is that I didn’t get into law enforcement sooner,” referring to his short career in retail sales when he and Deloris were first married, 35 years ago.

Since Deloris quit playing bass and singing backup, Jobe is the family’s only singer, but law enforcement has become a family tradition.

Deloris is a sergeant with the Colorado Department of Correction. The couple’s oldest son Jerry is a detective with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department, and daughter Deborah is a Colorado State Trooper who is married to a Salida police officer, Tony Vidmar.

Breaking the mold only slightly, youngest son Steve is a pilot and a flight instructor at Southeastern University in Oklahoma. He also is a student majoring in aviation — and minoring in criminal justice.

As Jobe, 54, approaches another birthday and another election, questions about retirement seem natural, but he says he’s not ready to unpin his badge or hang up his gun just yet. As to laying down his microphone, Jobe says as long as he has a voice, he’ll sing.

“I go home almost every night and sing for at least 30 minutes. It’s my stress reducer,” he says. “I’ll probably never quit,” he continues.

“I may quit doing it publicly when the voice falls apart, but for my own enjoyment, I’ll probably never give it up.”

Rayna Bailey writes for many publications, but mostly for the Wet Mountain Tribune in Westcliffe, where she also serves on the school board.