Michael Perry: In search of a warm memory of a cold fishing flop | Recent Columns by Michael Perry


The first fire of the season swirls in the woodstove, the side flames feeding on the open draft, the room air tinged with the ozone smell of the dust of a scorching summer.

As I sit across the room writing this column, I can already feel the heat slowly rolling away the cold. I’m going to let it blaze until it establishes a good, solid fire, then reduce it to a slow burn.

A friend of mine once wrote a song with the lyrics, “I go for the caste / I fall off a bass boat.” On first listen, the summoning of a bass boat – not to mention the overturning of a boat – seems a non sequitur practice, as the song is neither a novelty nor an ode to sport fishing. In fact, it’s a heavy song on heavy issues, as implied by the intentional use of “caste” rather than “cast”.

The song spun off to a random mix as I set fire to today. It’s powerful work, and I’m happy to report that I’m able to feel the song framed in that power.

But sometimes I also laugh. Because the first time I heard the bass boat lyrics, in a YouTube clip posted by a fan on a live broadcast, I completely missed the point, the context and the nuanced spelling and I instead thought, “Hey! Me too, I went to look for the casting and I fell from a bass boat! “

It was the opening day of the fishing season. I don’t know which year. I know I was at least in college, maybe even graduated. My dad and I rowed a flat bottom John boat up to a cove to the end of a shallow lake that is hiding with northern pike. While a john boat without a motor isn’t technically a bass boat, that’s what we mostly took in the beginning, so I am invoking both the poetic license and the privilege of the fisherman in telling this story.

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