Stephen Shoemaker

The Paintings and Their Stories


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About the Book

North Carolina artist Stephen Shoemaker and writer Janet Pittard have teamed up to present a selection of Shoemaker’s paintings and drawings and the stories behind them. Known for his dramatic railroad paintings and scenes of life in the Blue Ridge mountains, Shoemaker shares the thought processes involved in creating his artwork, reveals his sources of inspiration (which often include events in local history or personal experiences) and points out clues and symbols appearing in his art. Together with 48 images, several of which were created especially for this publication, and occasional short poems by Pittard, the lively storytelling sheds light on an artist’s development as well as the unique culture and history of the mountain region served by the train called the Virginia Creeper, which ran from Abingdon, Virginia, to Elkland, North Carolina (now Todd), from the early 1900s through the mid–1970s.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Shoemaker is an artist from West Jefferson, North Carolina, and a co-owner and designer for the Appalachian Mint, LLC. His studio is in downtown West Jefferson.

Janet Pittard began her writing career after retiring from the North Carolina Governor’s Office with thirty years of service. She is the author of two books and more than 100 articles for Our State Magazine. She lives in Raleigh and West Jefferson, North Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

Stephen Shoemaker and Janet Pittard

Format: softcover (8.5 x 11)
Pages: 128
Bibliographic Info: 39 color reproductions, 9 b&w reproductions, 1 map, index
Copyright Date: 2013
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7467-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0348-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Cut at Devil’s Stairs  front cover
Milepost from Cut at Devil’s Stairs  5
Acknowledgments  9
“To Be a Train”  10
Preface  11
The Virginia Creeper Series  13
The Virginia Creeper’s Route  13
Virginia Creeper  14
Derailing the Virginia Creeper  15
Lost and Found  18
Tracks and Tricycles  19
Backstreet Station  22
Water, Water, Everywhere  23
Pine Medley and Harry Lee Miller  25
Potbellied Stove  25
Another Satisfied Customer  28
Another Satisfied Customer  28
Buddy Blackburn and the Goat Wagon  29
Free Enterprise  29
Snap Till You Drop, Another Buddy
Blackburn Story  30
Snap Till You Drop  31
The Carnival on the Old Ball Diamond  32
The Old Ball Diamond  33
Snow Days at Barr Hill  36
Snow Days at Barr Hill  37
Whose God Is Their Belly  39
Lilly Dell Walker Shoemaker (1872–1966)  39
Pappy’s Garden  41
J.C. Brown  42
Marjorie Brown  44
Apple Tree  45
Pappy and Me  47
The Future Holds the Past  48
Pappy and Me  49
“The Future Holds the Past”  50
My Favorite Christmas  51
Christmas Memory  52
Summer Days  56
War on Wilton Avenue  57
Elkland Station—Todd  60
Elkland Station—Todd  61
In Range  63
A Life and Death Situation  63
The Last Ham Biscuit  65
The Last Ham Biscuit  65
Virginia Creeper at Lansing  66
Riding the Ties  67
Virginia Creeper at Stikes Hollar  68
New River Landing  72
New River Landing  73
The Ride of My Life  74
The Ride of My Life, Another Buddy
Blackburn Story  75
Band Practice  76
Band Practice  76
The Flying Maestro (Becky Burgess)  77
Gert’s  78
What Might Have Been  79
The Diner from Gert’s  80
My First Car  83
“The Ticket Window”  86
The Ticket Window  87
“Crossings”  88
Virginia Creeper Crossing Sign  88
503rd MP  89
The Boy Who Got What He Asked
For  89
Cooper Farm at Brownwood  92
Remnants of the Past  93
Barn on Railroad Grade Road  94
“A Barn on Railroad Grade Road”  95
Big Horse Creek at Ripshin  96
Big Horse Creek at Ripshin  97
Skull from Big Horse Creek at Ripshin  99
“Secrets”  101
Dog Creek Mill  102
Dog Creek Mill  103
Bread of Angels  104
Bread of Angels  105
Cut at Devil’s Stairs (mural)  106
Cut at Devil’s Stairs  107
Cut at Devil’s Stairs (painting)  109
Halfway Rock  110
“Halfway Rock”  111
New River Crossing  112
Taking in the Scene  113
Tuckerdale Church  114
Imagine This  115
Barlow Knife  116
The New Beginning  118
The Long Goodbye  119
Feathered Friends  122
From the Artist: Stephen Shoemaker  123
From the Writer: Janet Pittard  125
Margie’s Tree  126
Index  127

Book Reviews & Awards

“Shoemaker and Janet Pittard capture the flavor of the trains and small town, Blue Ridge Mountain life on a fare more personal level… Collectively, the paintings and tales that go along with them make the reader feel as if he or she were a classmate of Shoemaker growing up in West Jefferson… While old timetables tell enthusiasts when the trains ran and railway history books trace the significant events in a given rail line’s service line, it is books like this that fill in all the interesting and colorful details.”—The Michigan Railfan