Two Sides to Every Story

At the beginning of the spring, I wrote a story for the Tennessean about the West Nashville Farmers’ Market. Writing the story gave me so many great opportunities to meet people like Dustin and Justyne at Noble Springs Dairy, Chad at Papa C Pies, of course my friends over at Delvin Farms, and Sean Siple, the owner of Good Food for Good People, and the manager of the market itself.

I was enamored with the people, the concept of knowing your farmer, and the convenience of having a market within walking distance. But, as the adage goes, there are two sides to every story—and it wasn’t long before I was introduced to the other side of this one.

I was walking Cooper around the neighborhood and stopped to gawk at a beautiful red brick home on Park Avenue, right across from where the West Nashville Farmers’ Market sets up every week.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to live here, I thought, you could just walk right across the street to the farmers’ market!  I thought about all the novels I could write from behind the tall columns and within the lush gardens.  My mind was really getting away from me when a small, older lady emerged from the garden.

Her name is Shirley H. Greer, and she’s 79. She and her husband John have owned the Victorian home, built c. 1898 for 28 years. Back in 1984, they bought the house the same day they saw it- with $79,000 cash. Within a few days, their Smith County country house was sold as well. No mortgages, no hassle. “I believe God gave me this house,” Shirley says, walking me past her prayer spot, apple trees, rose bushes, and garden gnomes.

Shirley’s husband suffered a stroke in December. Now, Shirley spends her days caring for her husband, and managing her own ongoing battle with cancer— seven years and counting. She apologizes for weeds, explains how things used to look, and reminds me of the names of flowers and plants I’ve forgotten.

Soon, our conversation shifts from her historic home to her growing concern over the trees in Richland Park. Every Saturday, Shirley says she looks outside her home’s windows, and watches cars and commercial trucks trample the grass and blow exhaust on the trees. “I’ve told everyone, I’ve called hundreds of people,” she says, shaking her head grimly. “And no one seems to be listening.”

What she’s saying is true. Trucks do drive all over the grass, park for hours, and then pack up to go home when the market is over.  The problem is, I never noticed.  To me, the convenience of getting my fresh produce and seeing my neighborhood friends on Saturday mornings trumped the natural beauty of the park and the trees. But Shirley isn’t one to overlook the historic.  To her, the trees are a landmark to be preserved, not overlooked. Much like her home.

“It takes no money to move the market,” Shirley writes on Facebook, in a group she created called “Save Historic Richland Park.” She writes, “It just takes people who know the value of a tree. The roots were never designed to be a parking lot for vehicles.”

Shirley asked me not to take a picture of her, but I couldn’t help myself. Looking into the bathroom, she explained her background in interior design, and how her life in this historic home has given her a chance to treasure and collect antiques. For years, her home was on the Sylvan Park Home Tour, and was a regular spot for costume and cocktail parties. While things have certainly changed, Shirley’s care and attention to history has not.

She created a video about the trees in Richland Park, which you can see here. And she hopes people will listen.

Special thanks to Shirley H. Greer for the beautiful home tour.