A father’s greatest joy is his children

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 17, 2001

Years ago, a wealthy man and his son shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their priceless collection.

War soon engulfed their nation and the son left to serve his country. In only a short time, the father received a telegram. His beloved son was missing. In the coming days, the father’s fears were confirmed. His son had died while rescuing a fellow soldier.

One day, when peace came again to the old man’s country,

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a young man came to the door, bringing a package for the grieving father.

"Your son was killed rescuing me," the young man said. "I knew of your shared love of art. I am an artist and I wanted you to have this."

The old man unwrapped the package to find a portrait of his son. Although it was not the work of a genius, the old man was overcome with emotion. He hung the portrait above the fireplace, pushing aside the paintings of the masters.

Not long after, the old man died and, with his only son dead, his will stated that all of the art would be sold at auction.

Art collectors from around the world came to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings.

However, the first painting up for bid was the portrait of the old man’s son.

"It’s just a picture of the old man’s son," someone cried. "Let’s forget it and move on to the good stuff!"

The portrait sold for only $10.

Then, the auctioneer stunned the audience by announcing the auction was over.

"What do you mean?"

someone cried. "There are millions of dollars worth of art here!"

The auctioneer replied, "It’s simple. According to the will of the father, whose greatest joy came from his son, gave it all to whoever took his son."


Dreams can’t compare to my reality

by: Chris Matthews, Syndicated Columnist

WASHINGTON — During a contentious Q-and-A session at the New School in New York City, where I was speaking recently, a woman lobbed a verbal grenade onto the stage. "Would you go back to Pennsylvania and run for office?

And if so, would you run as a Democrat or a Republican?"

For a moment I was uncharacteristically speechless. I paused before giving what I thought was a pretty smart response to the two-part query. "I don’t know, and I don’t know."

The media buzz triggered by my double-barreled answer indicates the need for a fuller airing of my ambitions at age 55.

When I was a kid I dreamed of leading a cavalry charge across the plains of Russia. My saber raised high, my horse galloping, I was single-handedly defeating the Communist enemy.

As a fantasy, it’s still hard to beat.

When I grew older, my heart stirred to other notions of glory.

As a Philadelphia high-schooler I wanted to be a U.S. senator. I read "Advise and Consent" with fascination. On a band trip to Washington I thrilled at the sight of Hubert Humphrey standing before a Capitol elevator. When the Democrats had their convention in Atlantic City, I waited in the crowd to see and shake the hands of the future anti-Vietnam War hero Eugene McCarthy.

I had caught the Senate bug while still in grade school, watching Republican Hugh Scott win his upset in 1958, beginning his long career as the distinguished gentleman from Pennsylvania. In my first national election, I voted for his Democratic colleague, the great liberal reformer Joseph Clark.

But in college, I watched the power of Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Joe McGinniss. Three mornings a week, he jolted the city’s breakfast tables and car pools with his 800 words of a.m. audacity. Radio talk-show hosts would open by asking listeners, "So, what do you think of McGinniss?"

In grad school, I made a habit of catching CBS’ Eric Sevareid deliver his big-picture reflections on the Vietnam debate. One of Edward R. Murrow’s boys from World War II, he spoke with the crisp authority of someone who’d been there. I could not think of anything grander, more vital to the Republic, than to be a TV news commentator.

Judging by my career, those dreams have been powerful. Coming home from Africa in the Peace Corps three decades ago, I came straight here to learn about politics and government. I worked for the estimable Edmund Muskie, wrote speeches for President Carter, and served Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill in his daily philosophic battles with President Reagan.

A decade and a half ago I made my insider’s knowledge my ammo in exposing the political system to newspaper readers. I’ve tried to do the same, a tad more raucously, on TV with "Hardball."

Today, I love what I do. Unlike the elected official, I get to tell the whole truth, not just one side of it. Unlike the politician, I can argue positions honestly and without fear that I might offend a loyal constituent group. Name a politician, president or senator — Republican or Democrat — who can honestly claim the same.

I get to write and speak both freely and passionately in a free country, and I get people to listen to me. Short of driving the next Joe Stalin off the map, I can’t think of a better thing to do with my life.


Generations of Barry’s have been raccoon bait

by: Dave Barry, Humor Columnist

There’s nothing like taking your family on a camping trip — getting away from civilization, sleeping under the open sky, looking up into the heavens and gazing upon an awe-inspiring vista of millions and millions of … what ARE those things? Bats? Very large mosquitoes? Oh NO! They’ve taken little Ashley!

So perhaps it’s better not to sleep under the open sky. But you should still go camping, because it’s the best way to get close to nature, with "nature" defined as "anything that you would kill if it got inside your house."

Exposure to nature is healthy, especially for children. Kids today spend far too many hours sitting around indoors, watching moronic TV shows such as "Jackass" and "the evening news." By stark contrast, when I was a youngster, growing up in the small rural town of Armonk, N.Y., in a house surrounded by rustic woodland, I spent countless carefree hours roaming free in my bedroom, learning to make flatulence noises with my armpit. But I’m sure that if I HAD gone outside and interacted with nature, I would be a much healthier person today.

That’s why I say: So WHAT if North America has more than 30 species of rattlesnakes, as well as 60 species of spiders that inflict what are classified as "medically important" bites? Let’s start planning your family camping trip right now, using the "Q" and "A" format!


A. You need a tent. Tent sizes are measured in units of men, as in "a three-man tent," a "four-man tent," etc.; this tells you how many men are required to erect the tent if they are all professional tent engineers equipped with Tent Viagra. Even then, the tent will collapse under unusual weather conditions, such as rain, or nightfall. You will also need a hatchet, for the spiders, and a credit card, for the motel.


A. The United States has a spectacular national park system with millions of unspoiled acres, where wildlife is protected by strict federal laws. So unless you want to become Purina Bear Chow, you should avoid these places. You want a commercial facility with a name like "The Stop ‘n Squat Kountry Kampground," where large animals cannot penetrate because they won’t fit through the six-inch gaps between the Winnebago recreational vehicles. When pitching your tent, remember the "old woodsman’s" rule of thumb: You want to be upwind of your neighbor’s generator exhaust, but able to see his satellite TV.


A. A lot. You’ll be providing food not only for your family, but also for the entire raccoon community. And please do not be so stupid as to think you can keep your food away from the raccoons. Raccoons are the most intelligent life form on earth, as was proven in the October 2000 world chess championship match in London, where a raccoon not only defeated reigning champion Garry Kasparov in six moves, but also took his sandwich.

I know what raccoons are capable of. When I was a boy in rural Armonk, our garbage cans were regularly terrorized by a gang of brilliant criminal raccoons. I recall being awakened at 3 a.m. by loud noises, and looking out the window to see, by moonlight, my father, a peace-loving Presbyterian minister, charging around in the bushes in his pajamas, wildly swinging a baseball bat and saying non-Presbyterian words. Of course, he did not get the raccoons; you NEVER get the raccoons. The raccoons were safe in their secret headquarters, recording my father via high-resolution night-vision videotape technology that humans would not develop for another 25 years. That particular video is still hugely popular on Raccoon Entertainment TV ("Tonight we present the classic episode, "Crazed Minister in Pajamas."’).

Ten years later, I was a counselor at Camp Sharparoon, which meant that I had to go camping in the woods with a group of boys and a nutritionally balanced food supply consisting of 75,000 small boxes of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. I tried to protect our food at night via the Boy-Scout-handbook technique of suspending it from a rope strung between two trees; the raccoons, who were monitoring me via tiny cameras hidden in pine cones, thought this was hilarious. When darkness fell, they got the food down in seconds, using lasers. It would not surprise me to learn that they had paid the Boy Scouts to put that technique in the handbook.


A. The first thing you must do is get your bearings. If you don’t have a compass, stand very still, and listen very carefully, until you hear this sound: "eh-eh-eh." That is Canada. Whatever you do, don’t go that way.


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