I’ve always enjoyed a dual personality. On one hand, I love the rural life and the serenity it provides and on the other hand, I’m drawn to the energy and action of an urban lifestyle. When asking my seven-year old son, Atticus, whether he’d like to live in the city or the country, he took a moment to ponder the question and answered profoundly, “I’d like to live in the middle.”
My Wilson County roots run deep. I’m proud to say that I’ve lived in this county the past thirty-eight years and my family even longer. My father, Wayne Belcher, was born on a tobacco farm on the northern part of Wilson County. The farm straddled the Wilson and Trousdale county line in the Providence community. Our Belcher family lived on that farm for over 200 years. Dad will proudly tell you he attended a one-room schoolhouse and graduated from Hartsville in 1965. Many from Mt. Juliet know him through his successful Mt. Juliet CPA practice that he has run for more than 30 years. Let’s hear it for one-room schoolhouses, they know how to teach, don’t they!
On the other hand, my Mother, the former Darnell Russell, was raised in the southeastern part of Wilson County in Watertown. Mom hails from a tobacco farm herself. She cheered and played basketball for the Purple Tigers. And I know there are still some out there that remember my Great Aunts, Lou Alice Gwaltney and Minnie Belle Winfree, who ran the Five and Dime store in Watertown for many years. Then there are my uncles, Bob and Don Russell, newsboys who delivered the local paper on their bicycles all through the town. Part of me, would give anything to live in times like that again.
After my father graduated from Tennessee Tech in 1973, he obtained his first job at Ernst and Ernst in Nashville. My parents were looking to live in a town close to my father’s job and close to both my grandparents. Mt. Juliet was the perfect spot (in the middle).
As the oldest of three children, with my brother, Travis Belcher, two years my junior and my sister, Sarah Beth Belcher (Blevins), who is almost eight years my junior, I was the leader of pack as we had the run of “old” Mt. Juliet. Summers included swimming and playing tennis at Langford Farms Club, playing Phil King football in the fall for the Mt. Juliet Bears, basketball in the winter in the West Wilson Basketball League, and baseball in the spring and summer at the Mt. Juliet Little League.
When we weren’t running around town, we were in school. For twelve years I attended Mt. Juliet public schools. We lived so close that we were able to walk to Mt. Juliet Elementary. Those were the days when you could safely cross Mt. Juliet Road without the threat of being run over! At that time Mt. Juliet only had one red light located at the intersection of Mt. Juliet Road and Lebanon Road. Fast food meant the Superburger at the interstate; retail was the M&M’s Five and Dime; Dixie Drugs was where you filled your prescriptions; and Charlie Daniels Day was the event of the year.
Travis and I were very rambunctious children, and Mom’s solution for maintaining her sanity was for us to attend every vacation bible school that was offered in Mt. Juliet. My brother and I made the circuit every summer. We attended Mt. Juliet First Baptist Church, Mt. Juliet Church of Christ, Cloyd’s Presbyterian Church, St. Paul’s United Methodist and any other church that would have us. I guess a fella can never have too much religion.
After high school, I attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Always knowing that I would return to Mt. Juliet, after graduation I went on a three-year adventure to the northeast, attending law school in Boston at New England Law. In the summers, I even worked as an usher at Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox.
My stint in New England was wonderful, but I missed my hometown. After law school, I immediately returned to Mt. Juliet and soon found my very own “piece of the good life” on a small farm on the north side of town. That was right about the time farms were becoming scarce in Mt. Juliet. And on our farm, I built a log cabin that we still use today.
There was no doubt, Wilson County was where I needed to work, so establishing my law practice became my focus. In 2002, I purchased the former home of my elementary school principal, Paul and Carol Thomas. The home is a bungalow style residence, built sometime in the mid-1920’s, located right in the heart of Mt. Juliet. As a child I visited the home on numerous occasions and it felt like old friend. Over the past 11 years I’ve had the pleasure of serving a community that has served me well.
Not too long after that, I met my wonderful wife, Susan. She was raised in a small community on the Cumberland Plateau near Crossville, Tennessee called Big Lick, Tennessee (that really is the name). I have two stepchildren who both graduated from Mt. Juliet High School. Ryne Gipson was three-year letterman on the Mt. Juliet football team and is currently enrolled at Tennessee Tech University. This spring Katie Gipson will be graduating with honors and will be attending the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. And Susan and I soon added to our family with the addition of Atticus and Iris. Atticus will be entering 2nd grade in the fall and currently enjoys soccer and cub scouting. This fall Iris will be starting kindergarten at W.A. Wright Elementary. She loves playing softball and gymnastics. And I enjoy nothing more than watching all of them do whatever they enjoy doing.
Still finding myself in Mt. Juliet (in the middle) after all these years, is the perfect place for me. The New York Times recently dubbed Nashville the “It City.” And with Nashville just a few miles down the road, whatever we can’t find near home can be found just a few miles away. Nashville has evolved over the years as one of the great southern cities. Our family routinely attends Titans and Predators games.
The cultural offerings are plentiful including the Nashville Symphony, Nashville Children’s Theater, Belcourt Theater and Station Inn. Nashville also boasts a fantastic food scene and to that end, our family has become quite the connoisseurs of Nashville’s hot chicken. We can enjoy all these amenities without having to live in the city.
At the same time, we are not too far from my family’s roots often making the quick trip to Watertown and Hartsville, showing my kids where it all began. And while my hometown of Mt. Juliet has certainly changed dramatically in the past 40 years with its shopping malls, restaurants, and a movie theater, it still remains the same in the most important way: Mt. Juliet continues to be a great place to be a kid.
Although now there are many more people living here, folks are still the friendliest you will ever meet and a day doesn’t go by that you don’t see someone you know, no matter if you are at Garr’s Feed Store or Target. I also know if my kids are not in eyeshot at the ballpark, they are still safely under the watchful eye of a good neighbor. And that my friends, is reason enough to call Mt. Juliet home.
For almost 40 years, I’ve had the pleasure of living the good life in Wilson County, by living neither in the city nor the country, instead by living in the middle.