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Bringing Grandma Home

Photo Credit: Rory Finney

Grandma Aggie wants to sit in her family chair. Who could say no to that? But Grandma Aggie is no ordinary grandma and her chair is not the front porch rocker.

Midwinter 2012, in Grants Pass, Oregon, the oldest living Takelma Indian was in bed at her usual rehab center, tethered to an IV bag as she recovered from yet another joint replacement. At 87, Agnes Baker Pilgrim could barely sit up, let alone walk, and she was reminding me of my one crucial task at her annual Salmon Ceremony on the Rogue River: securing the golf cart. “Grandma Aggie” is famous for racing around in a golf cart with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a bullhorn, blasting everyone out of their teepees and tents at 6:00 a.m. for the sunrise prayer circle. “The cart is no problem,” I said. Laurel Acres, our local golf course, always donates one. “Good!” She smiled sweetly. “And I want my picture taken on the Story Chair.” “But Grandma!” I said finally, picking up my jaw. “The Story Chair is in the middle of a Class IV waterfall. In fact, Ti’lomikh (ti low meekh) Falls is the largest falls on the Middle Rogue.” I shook my head. “You could get ripped up like one of those old salmon that’s already spawned.” Grandma just smiled and patted my hand. She had made up her m …

Stephen Kiesling is editor in chief of Spirituality & Health and president of the not-for-profit Gold Hill Whitewater Center at Ti’lomikh Falls. He is the author of The Shell Game and Walking the Plank. His articles have appeared in The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, and Outside.

About the Author

Stephen Kiesling

Stephen Kiesling is a former Olympic rower, co-creator of the Nike Cross Training System, and editor at...

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