Celilo Falls

A Story

by Heather Brittain Bergstrom

1.

I met Lewis the year my mom moved out of our house and into an apartment across the street from a bowling alley called Chief Joseph Lanes. Lewis was an Indian, but he wouldn’t say which tribe, only that the lifestyle of Indians east of the Cascades suited him: roaming the land, digging bulbs, living in caves. He didn’t live in a cave, of course, though his room in the back of the bowling alley was close enough.

Five miles of sagebrush and dust separated my mom’s new apartment in town from my dad’s house on the closed-down airbase that had once been a major defense center for Hanford. During my childhood, the only signs of life along the lonely highway were the jackrabbits that darted through the sage. At the time my dad sold irrigation pipe to farmers. He still does. In the arid center of Washington State—also the northern tip of the Great Basin—you either own land or sell equipment to those who do. Or, as my mom did after leaving my dad, you work rotating shifts at one of the potato-processing factories. Only after I cracked my ankle while on a river tubing trip with our church youth group did my mom let me move in with her. “Temporarily,” she said. “Just until you heal.”

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