Texas caterers prepared 900 pounds of ribs, 650 pounds of beef, 125 pounds of beans and 120 pecan pies, but there was no mention of crow on Monday night's White House menu. That appetizer didn't become a possibility until the next morning, when President Bush sat down to deficit-cutting talks with congressional leaders and got up two hours later saying it was clear to him "tax revenue increases" were necessary.

By Tuesday night, the second of Bush's back-to-back barbecues for the diplomatic corps and Congress, the White House press corps was penned up like livestock at a Texas rodeo. The president, at a table 50 yards away, sat with his back to the journalists craning necks and camera lenses to read his lips and see what he was eating.

Shortly before the Monday night barbecue for diplomats got underway, the White House canceled press coverage altogether. Sharing the blame, according to varying reports, were the diplomats, who reportedly preferred not to be seen with the president, and the White House social office, which reportedly preferred not to have the press seen at all.

Yet another explanation, also unconfirmed, was that though the Tuesday morning deficit-cutting session wasn't on the president's public schedule released Monday night, his advisers weren't taking any chances that a reporter covering the reception might ask about taxes.

The last time diplomats were the president's guests was at the reception he and Barbara Bush gave two weeks after he was inaugurated. They literally read his lips that night because he had laryngitis. Reporters covering the event were told they couldn't ask questions -- though not just because of his laryngitis.

The Bushes "just don't want to answer reporters' questions at parties they give, and it's their party. They don't want to talk about things like S&Ls, and they don't see satisfying your needs as something that should compete with their roles as America's hosts," a White House official said at the time.

Reporters who disagreed with those ground rules were told that the alternative -- being "penned" -- would be worse.

George Bush once said Millie meant "one single word: 'puppies.' Worth 10 points {in the polls}, believe me."

So where's Millie these days?

Well, the White House says she's definitely not pregnant and, for gosh sakes, don't start that rumor.

Anna Perez, Barbara Bush's spokeswoman, says the Bushes' English springer spaniel often doesn't make the scene if there are crowds.

"She's shy," Perez revealed yesterday.

Last week at the White House there were several crowds around. Standing in for Millie at the Bushes' barbecue for Congress was her offspring Ranger, in whose body there is no such thing as a shy bone. That particular night there were plenty of other bones -- though most were of the spareribs variety handed Ranger by well-meaning guests, such as CIA Director William H. Webster, as he worked the crowd.

Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker probably wouldn't find this news particularly worrisome, but George Bush might. Around the White House tennis courts, the doubles team everybody has been trying to beat is that of White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater and presidential scheduler Joe Hagin.

In what may turn out to be the Washington bureaucracy's version of Wimbledon, recent matches have found Fitzwater and Hagin facing a variety of teams composed of such White House staffers as Dave Demarest, Rob Portman, Alixe Glen, Katherine Holt, Jay Allison and John Herrick, as well as Tom Scully of the Office of Management and Budget and Tom Collomore of the Commerce Department.

Their victims say Fitzwater and Hagin are awesome -- with the reflexes of human backboards -- and describe their styles as aggressive, consistent and fast of foot.

Some who have seen both Bush and Fitzwater in action say they're an even match. Others aren't as convinced.

This sports bulletin comes on the heels of a report from Kennebunkport: The vacationing Bush complained not only that there were "no fish" and "no particularly good news from around the world," but also that he had lost in tennis.

As living proof that good things do indeed come to those who wait, Bush later made a birdie on the 13th hole of the local golf course.

"It's the second happiest day of my life, from a bad day starting off," Bush told reporters. And the first happiest day of his life?

"Barbara," he said, with a thumbs-up gesture.