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An American Arcadia - Wilkes County, North Carolina: A Riposte to Katherine Faw Morris

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A friend forwarded me an 'essay' published on BuzzFeed titled 'Try To Leave Me If You Can' by a Ms. Katherine Faw Morris, the author of the recently published novel 'Young God.' One quickly discovers that it is not so much of an essay as a rambling rant littered with non-sequiturs against her native Wilkes County. Ms. Morris notes, 'It's a county of murderers,' and then again manifesting her literary elegance, 'it stinks like chicken shit.'

In 2012 after my novella, The Italian Pleasures of Gabriele Paterkallos, was published, I found myself tiring of urban life, longing for the pleasure of the pasture. I contemplated purchasing an estate in Umbria or Tuscany, or even upon Sappho's Isle, far-famed Lesbos, the land of my ancestors, but I decided that I didn't want to move half way across the world to indulge in a bucolic lifestyle worthy of a Virgilian idyll.

So, after researching various avant-garde agrarian adventures such as black truffle cultivation and saffron, I chanced upon a property with an existing black truffle orchard in the tiny town of Moravian Falls, which is located in Wilkes County. After engaging in some preliminary negotiations with the owners, I traveled from Florida to North Carolina to view the property in person. When I arrived, and saw the fast-flowing streams, the flowering meadows filled with soft-winged butterflies, the lofty aurorean light crowning the crest of The Brushy Mountains, I felt as if I had stumbled into Shangri-La. I was in such awe of the Beauty that I was reduced to mumbling the poetry of Horace to myself over and over.

Hoc Erat in Votis, modus agri, non ita
magnus hortus ubi et tecto vicinus jugis
aquae fons et paullum silvae super his
foret. Auctius atque di melius fecere.
Bene est. Nil amplius oro. . .

This is what I prayed for - a piece of land
not very large, where there would be a
garden, and near the house a spring of
ever-flowing water, and also a bit of a
wood. More and better than this have the
gods done for me. I am content. Nothing
more do I ask. (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Satires, II.6)

In addition to the Horatian eden that I found myself in, I was also drawn to the surrounding area. Where Ms. Morris saw only soul-crushing poverty and drug abuse, I saw a nascent wine region flourishing. After leaving the environs of the property, I visited several of the area's wineries located in the newly established Swan Creek AVA, and was quite impressed with the quality of the wines being produced in the area. Being an avowed aesthete, and a direct descendant of the Greeks and Italians, both oenophilic cultures, I have always dreamed of owning a vineyard; there are few things in this world as lovely and as poetic as a vineyard perched upon a rolling hillside.

I took possession of the land, which I immediately named 'Bramabella' (to yearn for Beauty) in November of 2012 and since then I have set out beautifying it, endeavoring to transform the 40 acres into High Art, into a living, breathing, palpitating landscape painting worthy of some forgotten ancient Master. I have planted 350 blueberry bushes, cleared land for a vineyard planting, and sown countless pounds of wildflower seeds so as to attract pollinators and butterflies. For it was the divine Nabokov, a greater Artist, than either myself or this Ms. Morris who astutely noted, 'Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.' And just last month, I planted 800 vines, a medley of Sangiovese, Barbera and Cabernet Franc. Perhaps I am a fool for doing this and it is a 'moonshine county' as Ms. Faw asserts, but maybe in ten years Wilkes County will be known for its vineyards/wineries and ancillary industries such as Bed & Breakfast's, wine touring companies, wine bars, etc.

Though Ms. Faw seems to think that Wilkes is only filled with 'chicken farmers,' one should also note that the renowned actor/comedian Zach Galifianakis (another Greek, by the bye) hails from Wilkesboro. One could see him investing some of his millions into this burgeoning Carolinian wine country, or if not the wine industry, some other form of economic stimulus for Wilkesboro and the surrounding county. Before closing, I would like to mention the people of Wilkes County, a group for whom Ms. Faw reserves nothing but contempt. She says, 'When I left it was a coke county and now everybody's on pills.' In my life, I have traveled extensively throughout the world, mingled in the highest reaches of society, and I can say with utter certainty that I have never met a friendlier, more congenial group of people than here in Wilkes County: from farmers, to day laborers, to well-heeled bourgeois, and to everything in between. One can only hope that going forward the pretentious Ms. Morris remains far, far away from the grand, glorious Arcadia that is Wilkes County.

-Pietros Maneos di Bramabella,