PENDLETON, Ore. — Kricket Caffery, a small woman, stands 7-foot-4 — on stilts.
From those dizzying heights, she gets an empowering view of the world. The 36-year-old former Marine makes stilts in her garage workshop and sells them to customers all over the country. She also teaches people to use them.
Caffery said her life as a stilt-walker started in 2006. In 2008, she and some friends started a women’s stilting group. They arranged a workshop where the women learned to use power tools like drill presses and chop saws, made their own stilts, got instruction on how to use them and then walked in Portland’s Earth Day Parade.
“It was pretty epic,” Caffery said. She started PegStilts.com that year in a tiny garage.
The New York native makes the stilts from ash wood and uses reclaimed bicycle tires for tread. She said her stilt-making business is one of four in the country — all of them in Oregon. She sold 18 sets that first year, and now has customers in 40 states and three countries.
The stilts come in a range of sizes and she does custom jobs, too. A woman who stood only 3-foot-10 hired Caffery to build a set of stilts that would raise her to average height.
Caffery also does workshops and performs at festivals, parades, parties and promotional events. She appeared at the Oregon Country Fair in Eugene and Burning Man in Nevada.
She loves helping young neophytes conquer trepidation — stilt-walking as metaphor for life, “empowering young people to face fear, stand up tall and be proud of themselves.”
Two lessons generally do the trick. Part of the process is teaching students how to fall correctly and learn balance.
“A lot of people think when you get up on stilts, you can just stand still, but you’ve got to keep moving,” Caffery said. “Balance comes through movement much like a bicycle.”