No one I know has ever been to Taliaferro County, so I don’t believe it’s real. There is data out that says it has 1,700 or so residents and I’ve never met a single one. The closest I’ve come is I found a couple guys in a bar in Atlanta one night who said they owned a few thousand acres in Taliaferro between the two of them. They were talking about a story in that morning’s Journal which said there were some men going about stripping other people’s lands of timber for profit and getting away with it because the vacationing owners, same as those very two men, were never around for long enough to catch them. I suppose they called in to the sheriff out there, if there is one, to make sure their investments, if in fact real, were secure.
I pitched a news story to National Geographic about it. I called the editor up and I said, “I’ve found a county in Georgia that doesn’t exist.” The managing editor got nasty at me. “I’m busy, kid,” he said. “If I had a dollar for every jerk who found a lost county, I could buy a sandwich, and I live in DC, and sandwiches are incredibly expensive up here. And proportionately tasty.”
He stayed on the line, however. He said the only reason he hadn’t hung up yet was because he was from Atlanta originally, and he missed talking about it.
“I can explain it to you,” I said. “Did you ever see those license plates when you were a kid that said Tal-i-a-ferr-o?” Then I explained to him that Taliaferro is for some reason pronounced regionally as “Toll-i-ver.”
“But it’s not a real place?”
“The Vice President of the Confederate States of America, Alexander H. Stephens, was from there,” I assured him.
“Both a man and a country that no longer live on.”
“Exactly,” I said. “And get this. A friend of mine went to a high school in Greensboro in Greene County called Greene-Taliaferro. He says it’s just Greene now.”
“Maybe they got their own school.”
“I guess that could be it, but I asked him if any of the kids at the school when he’d gone there had been Taliaferro kids, and he said he didn’t think there were. And I did some further research. I found out some movies were made there, where this place is supposed to be. In fact, Reese Witherspoon was there at some point because that’s where they filmed parts of Sweet Home Alabama…”
“A terrible movie,” he interrupted.
“Yes, pretty terrible.”
“But that doesn’t prove anything because movies aren’t so much real. And I like to pretend that that movie never happened in the first place.”
“Me too,” I said, and I apologized to him for bringing it all up, especially that last part. We stayed there on the line like that for a little longer, while the fate of an entire county hung in the balance, or it did not.
About the Writer
Greg Sullivan spent time as a newspaper reporter in Georgia and Tennessee before turning to fiction. His short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Collagist, Barely South Review, New Mexico Review, Drunken Boat, and other journals.