Illustration: Excuses, Family

A cowboy walks into a bar in Texas, orders three mugs of Bud and sits in the back room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn. When he finishes them, he comes back to the bar and orders three more.

The bartender approaches and tells the cowboy, "You know, a mug goes flat after I draw it. It would taste better if you bought one at a time."

The cowboy replies, "Well, you see, I have two brothers. One is in Australia, the other is in Dublin, and I'm in Texas. When we all left home, we promised we'd drink this way to remember the days we drank together. So I drink one for each of my brothers and one for myself."

The bartender admits this is a nice custom, and leaves it there. The cowboy becomes a regular in the bar, and always drinks the same way. He orders three mugs and drinks them in turn. One day, though, he comes in and orders only two mugs. All the regulars take notice and fall silent.

When he comes back to the bar for the second round, the bartender says, "I don't want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your loss."

The cowboy looks quite puzzled for a moment, then a light dawns and he laughs. "Oh, no, everybody's just fine," he explains. "It's just that my wife and I joined the Baptist Church in Sweetwater, and I had to quit drinking. Hasn't affected my brothers though."

(from Walt Mansfield, Grace Shepherd Church, Bellefontaine, Ohio)