By Forrest Johnson

The call came just before 5 p.m. on a Friday.

“Hi, Forrest, this is Amy Klobumechnmebersers... “ or something like that. “We’re going to go skiing on your trail. How is it? We’re staying out at a friend’s place. C’mon out for a visit or else we’ll stop by. Where’s your office again?”

Amy who, I thought? How’d she know that I help groom the ski trail? Did she say, Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar?

Being polite I simply said that yes, the trail’s in good shape thanks to able assistant Scott Anderson, who had groomed on Thursday. Stop on by and we’ll visit, I said. Office is right across from the post office.

Amy who? I had to wait to see.

Sure enough, it was U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, husband John Bessler, and their daughter Abigail. They were taking a little family break during the congressional holiday recess, had been up the North Shore to relax and ski.

Her father, Jim Klobuchar, a longtime journalist at the Star Tribune and Iron Range expatriate, always gives me an update about the bike trips he hosts when he’s up in the area, and I guess we hit it off enough over the years for him to perhaps tell his daughter to give Forrest a call if you’re in Two Harbors.

I had met the Senator before her run for Congress last year and found her to be personable and unpretentious, a listener. Standing there in her ski boots and winter garb with a year of congressional experience under her belt, hat pulled down over her ears, I just didn’t sense the pomp and flabbergast of the U.S. Senate.

She seemed like a real regular sort, one of us. She told me one of her first committee assignments as a freshman legislator was with Trent Lott and John Kerry, two heavyweights in Congress. Important stuff. She just seemed like Amy, perhaps your neighbor, but a neighbor that just happens now to have the potential to bring your views to a much wider audience.

She’ll be back up in the area, to Ely on Jan. 4, to speak at a climate change forum with explorer Will Steger and Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

“That’s something the Governor and I agree on, climate change,” she said.

She mentioned that her daughter was interested in becoming a journalist, like her Grandpa Jim. Hearing about such a career choice always gives me the chance to say that it’s a great line of work to get into if you don’t need much money and like meeting interesting people.

Our production assistant Karin Smith was quick to direct the youngster and her dad, who happens to teach law at the University of Minnesota and has written a book on the history of the death penalty in Minnesota, to our vintage collection of old newspapers dating back over 100 years.

That’s always a good place to bring visitors, you know, back to the good old days.

“Eggs taken in trade for dry goods, etc.”

“Fisherman rescued by ore boat.”

“Region deemed hospitable for potato farming.”

Another local, Fran Kaliher, happened to stop by and joined in the conversation, telling about a recent trip to Korea to study river otters in the demilitarized zone along the 38th Parallel separating North Korea from South Korea. There, one of the most intensely-guarded areas of the world is also one free of the pressures of rampant development and human populations and is one of the last places to study wild otters, an irony noted by the Senator.
When asked, Klobuchar told of her trip to Iraq, noting that the vast U.S. bases, many of them the size of cities, hint that a continued presence was intended, albeit in a nation the administration had hoped would welcome that presence.

The reality seemed to be that a pullout of combat troops could occur in the next year, something she favors, but the notion that we would leave all that behind, simply leave with so much training and reconstruction left to do all across the country, that just didn’t seem as likely.

We touched on health care and education, on energy issues and ethanol before the ski trail beckoned for the family.

It was a very comfortable visit with a U.S. Senator, a neighborly kind of visit.

Amy stopped by for a chat.