A native Ashlander, “Shirts” Blanton was a natural athlete who played semi-professional baseball. In 1955, he was shot during an attempted robbery at the Wallerstein Real Estate Company in Richmond where he worked. Told by his doctor that he would only live a few more years, Shirts returned to Ashland as a paraplegic to wait to die. From his house on the track, Shirts was encouraged by a train conductor to wave back to him as his train went through town, waving a flashlight in a circle that signals all is well.
This began a daily job for Shirts as he watched each train come into town, and often noticed things that were wrong with the train, such as a stuck brake. In the late 1960’s, the RF&P installed a buzzer system in his house to let him know when a train was approaching. Shirts died in 1982, disproving his doctors, and after leading a useful and inspiring life.