New York Times: Loyal to His 4-Legged Constituents

The space between Senator Jon Tester’s 1,800-acre ranch outside Big Sandy, Mont., and the nation’s capital is metaphysically and culturally large. But mostly, it’s just plain large.

Traveling from his ranch to the airport in Great Falls, Mont., takes 90 minutes by truck. Then Senator Tester takes two commercial flights to reach Reagan National Airport here.

Such a trip calls for light packing, yet the senator, a first-term Democrat, can often be found lugging an extra 40-pound roller bag, which he gingerly stuffs into the overhead bin. His precious cargo is neither briefing books nor an extra raincoat, but roasts, ribs, round steak and (his favorite) rib steak.

“Taking meat with us is just something that we do,” Senator Tester, 55, said over a meal of beef stroganoff cooked by his wife, Sharla, in their Capitol Hill town house. “We like our own meat.”

Just as some lawmakers cannot part with their pillow from home, the Testers do not like to leave their state without its meat, which they have been schlepping around the country for years, including to a family reunion in Hawaii.

They are also known to take purple barley, grown organically on their land along with lentils, winter wheat and peas, among other crops. On a recent trip, Mrs. Tester tucked a Ziploc bag of barley into her purse.

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