King Kudzu sits next to his little house by the side of Route
441 surrounded by reindeer. There is kudzu everywhere. Kudzu
stars, kudzu Christmas trees, kudzu angels. It is only late
August, but already the King is getting ready for Christmas, the
busiest season of the year. He is the creator, soaking and cutting
and weaving and bending while occasionally glancing up at the
sky. The early fog has risen, making space for the summer sun.
Appalachia’s Blue Ridge Mountains are stacked in the distance,
shades of blue turning lighter and lighter until they almost fade
into the horizon. Some are balancing clouds on their peaks. In
the face of such grandeur, how could you not believe in something bigger than yourself?
After King Kudzu returns from the fields where he harvests
in the early mornings, he takes a nap. He puts up a handwritten
sign on the door of his store:
King of Kudzu
In rural Georgia, one man turns an invasive species into art
PHOTOGRAPHS BY KATHRYN KOLB
To AWAKe or
WAi Te 15 minutes.
Only after he mentioned it did I notice that the King’s right
hand is slightly twisted, and that his “bad” arm is a bit shorter
and skinnier than the other one. He says that he has less feeling
and strength on the right, but that he has never been in pain.
The arm does what it can. It pets and cradles his kitten, holds the
steering wheel steady and shifts gears. It pulls kudzu vines from
trees and helps load and unload them into the back of the truck.
It twists branches and weaves kudzu vine into fine baskets and
bowls and life-sized reindeer.