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VOL. 45 | NO. 25 | Friday, June 18, 2021

Tell me, clickbait, which counties are tops in Tennessee?

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Clickbait internet teases are generally best avoided, being frequently of the “15 foods you should never eat naked” variety. But they can be tempting. And I couldn’t resist one I came across recently: “Best counties to raise a family in Tennessee,” for various reasons.

For one thing, I wanted to know how my county of residence, Davidson, rated, despite the fact that my wife and I are not raising a family. (Unless housing two middle-aged cats counts.)

Plus, I like being introduced to places in Tennessee I might not otherwise have heard of. Weakley County, for example, made the best counties list.

I have no idea where it is, but “All roads lead to Weakley County,” its website advises, so it shouldn’t be hard to find for a visit. I’ll just set out on a road at random.

Also – and this is a prime goal for “best of” lists – I was prepared to dispute the findings. As with, for example, a ranking by Rotten Tomatoes that judged “Roseanne” a better comedy than “The Andy Griffith Show.” Yeah. Right.

The results for Davidson County turned out to be so-so: No. 8 on a list of the top 25. That’s in the top 10% of Tennessee’s 95 counties, statistically, but middling when you consider that the county includes the state capital, has the “it city” label and that people are practically trampling one another to move here.

No. 25, by the way, was the aforementioned Weakley County. Sorry, Weakleyans. But take heart! You still ranked better than 70 other Tennessee counties! (Including one Davidson doughnut county, Cheatham.)

The list was provided by an outfit called Stacker, which seems to specialize in compiling such minutiae. Other tidbits on its website include “50 common weather terms, explained” and “25 things we’ve learned about the moon since 1969.”

Stacker says it used data from yet another outfit, Niche, which claims to be “the market leader in connecting colleges and schools with students and families.” Clearly, the web infrastructure for the production and dissemination of trivia is vast. And shallow.

But enough of the mystery. Since you’re no doubt wondering, the countdown of counties outranking Davidson is: No. 7, Washington; No. 6, Wilson; No. 5, Hamilton; No. 4, Knox; No. 3, Montgomery; No. 2, Rutherford; No. 1, Williamson.

Surprised?

I wasn’t. There seems to be some built-in bias that suggests suburban – even rural – beats urban when it comes to quality of life. And though Hamilton has Chattanooga and Knox has Knoxville, they’re both less than a third the size of Nashville.

My hometown had a population of roughly 6,000 when I was growing up, so I’m no city slicker. I readily concede that Franklin, in No. 1 Williamson County, is quite charming. Watertown and Lebanon, in No. 6 Wilson County, also have their Mayberryish appeal.

But Nashville they ain’t, a point they might consider to be in their favor.

The good news for Davidson is that we did outrank Shelby County, which came in at No. 10, trailing Sumner at No. 9.

A bit curious since Shelby has Memphis, Beale Street, Graceland and the Peabody ducks and so on, whereas Tripadvisor lists a cemetery as the top attraction in Sumner. But there you are.

To be fair, that cemetery does include the graves of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Hard to beat those for star-power final resting places.

Fact is, I suspect all Tennesseans consider their own home area tops since it validates their choice and, by extension, themselves. Still, it’s fun to compare, just as it can be diverting to collect otherwise useless information.

Like those weather and moon facts I mentioned on Stacker. Turns out I couldn’t resist them, either.

Here’s my tease: Partly cloudy and partly sunny mean pretty much the same thing. And the moon is moving away from the Earth at about 1.5 inches per year.

By the way, I made up that “15 foods you should never eat naked” category. But I bet you have some ideas, don’t you?

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com

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