BAUDETTE, Minn. - "You're wasting the best years of your life."
That's what Bill Mouw's father told him more than four decades ago when the elder Mouw learned of his son's bright idea of buying a farm in northern Minnesota. The Mouws lived in northern Iowa, where the dirt was black and fertile, and the weather always had a helping hand on the plow.
Baudette is one of the coldest frontiers in the Lower 48, but Bill didn't listen to his father. In 1966, he and his wife, Bette, bought a farm outside this small town on the Minnesota-Ontario border, then a second. They grew wheat, oats, flax and clover, and embraced the tight-knit community.
There might have been another reason for the Mouws' migration: Bill loves to fish.
"He does a lot of fishing," Bette said, chuckling. "He taught me how to fish, and he taught me how to cook, too."
Last Sunday, the day after the fishing opener, Bill was driving a pontoon boat into Lake of the Woods for another round of tangling with walleyes. At 79, Bill still has a handshake like a wrestler but the touch of a 46-year veteran of Lake of the Woods. After all, he fishes 200 days a year and lives on Rainy River, where he and Bette moved 14 years ago after selling their farms.
The sun was bright, casting warm streams onto the pontoon's deck, and boats filled with anglers zipped up and down Rainy River and past us into the big lake. Mouw was giving me and my friend, Joe Rossi, a tour of Rainy River, Four Mile Bay and beyond - the big waters of Lake of the Woods.
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