Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Remembering Jim Klobuchar

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Among the most influential people in my life, Jim Klobuchar holds one of the top spots. When I learned last night of the news of his passing, my memories instantly jumped to the two treasured connections I enjoyed with Jim: annually participating in his June “Jaunt with Jim” biking and camping adventures around Minnesota for years, and participating in one of his guided treks in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal.

However, the more profound impact Jim had on me was probably his influence as a writer. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. I read his columns and sports reporting in the Minneapolis Star Tribune for most of my life. My style of wordsmithing is a reflection of how his writing made me feel as a reader. I wanted to write about people and places in the way Jim did. At the same time, it is very intimidating to compare my compositional aspirations with his professional accomplishments.

Reading Jim’s columns describing the bike and camping adventures he led inspired me to sign up the next year to try my first-ever long-distance cycling expedition. It was in 1994, the 20th year of his leading the June event, and I’ve been doing it ever since, minus a few scattered years when I was unable.

After one spectacular week, I wrote out some lyrics to memorialize the annual adventure. I expected it to be a song, but I couldn’t get all the words to fit a consistent rhythm, so I decided it was a poem, instead. I brought it along the next year to share with the group. On the first night, I told Jim about the poem and my desire to read it for everyone. He asked to see it and when I handed the paper over to him, he tucked it in a pocket, then moved on with first-night greetings and leadership duties.

I don’t remember if it was the next day, but some amount of time passed before he finally acknowledged the poem again. He said he liked it and wanted to read it to the group himself.

Here come those mixed feelings again. “Why you controlling SOB...” I thought. “Wait, Jim Klobuchar wants to read my words to a large group of people?” I was more honored than miffed. Of course, I wanted it read as soon as possible, but Jim had his own agenda. One day passed, then two, three, four… I eventually gave up thinking about it. Whatever.

Jim picked post-lunch on the second-to-last day and his timing was impeccable. He called me up to stand next to him while he more than admirably recited the lyrical lines. A couple years on and I was able to forge the poem into a song that tends to get new air-time each successive month of June. Ultimately, I recorded a version and combined it with images from a couple of year’s rides.

At the time, Jim was living close to where I worked, in Plymouth, MN. I burned a copy of the video onto an optical disk (remember those?) and dropped it off in a surprise morning visit. He met me at the door wearing a robe and somewhat dumbfoundedly accepted the mysterious media.

I received the best response in an email a short time later that morning. He implied he wouldn’t have let me leave without joining him in the viewing if he had known what was on that disc.

The year I flew to Nepal for the trek, Jim and I were lone travel companions with a day-long layover in LA. It was a rare treat to have so much uninterrupted attention from this man whom I considered a mentor. I remember thinking how much he and my dad would have enjoyed each other, especially when Jim regaled me with detailed memories of his days covering the Minnesota Vikings football team.

He was a consummate listener and allowed me to tell him more about myself than anyone needed to hear.

Jim turned 81 while we were in Nepal and he was one of only two trekkers who reached the highest elevation planned. Already showing signs of his fading mental acuity, but not a speck of giving in to it, there were some poignant moments on that trip. Our relationship was cemented forever after.

Here’s hoping Jim has already regained his full mental capacities for the remainder of eternity. Those of us he has left behind will cherish our memories of him at his very best.

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Written by johnwhays

May 13, 2021 at 6:00 am

7 Responses

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  1. Fitting tribute to your mentor, John! Great song!
    Hope all is well in your neck of the woods 🙂

    lorriebowden

    June 7, 2021 at 7:35 pm

    • Thank you, Lorrie. All is well! We are enjoying some summery heat early this year and tending to horses and more chickens than we’ve ever had at the same time before.

      johnwhays

      June 7, 2021 at 8:23 pm

      • I’m sure that will keep you busy, John!
        Hope you have a great week…make it great!

        lorriebowden

        June 7, 2021 at 9:05 pm

  2. What a great tribute! And now I can’t get the refain of that tune out of my head! 😀

    frisshop

    May 13, 2021 at 8:57 am

    • Sorry about that. It was written as a sing-along, after all. Thank you.

      johnwhays

      May 13, 2021 at 9:45 am

  3. Wonderful tribute! Thank you for introducing me to a few of those memorable biking jaunts with Jim… great memories😊

    Mary

    May 13, 2021 at 7:56 am

    • I’m so happy for the years you joined me in those adventures! Thank YOU!

      johnwhays

      May 13, 2021 at 8:18 am


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