MEMO TO: The family in Bowling Green, Ky.

FROM: Cousin Mike in Washington.

Cousin Audrey tells me the long dry spell this summer hurt the soybeans and tobacco, and that rain may mess up the hay cutting.

I don't understand why you all don't get into a business that does't depend on the weather. You ought to come to Washington and get a good steady job. Good weather, bad weather, it doesn't bother us here.

Actually we are having a little problem at the moment.The government may be going out of business. Mostly what people here did yesterday was try to figure out what they were going to do today. If anything. Government agencies told their people to come in to work Wednesday, although they may not get paid.

This may seem silly in Bowling Green, but it makes a lot of sense here.

See, in Washington we celebrate the New Year on Oct. 1. We call it the fiscal year and it is three months ahead of your silly old calendar year.We used to celebrate the New Year on July 1, but Congress changed it to October so we wouldn't have budget problems.

See, Congress is supposed to give money (we will call it an "appropriation") each December (which is really September here) so agencies can keep on doing what they are supposed to do. Like run the Pentagon, and issue Social Security checks, and keep airplanes from running into each other.

Normally the system works real well. But in the last couple of years Congress has done a lot of fighting about things in the budget -- money for abortions and the like -- and the Senate and House have played a local version of the game of "chicken," only we use budgets, buildings and people rather than souped-up 1949 Fords.

If the Senate doesn't get what it likes in some budget bill, it holds it up. The House also refuses to play ball of some off-the-wall subject or pet project it favors isn't tacked on to a budget bill.

Because the budgets for some departments haven't been approved for the new year (remember that is Oct. 1, not the new year you people cling to out of tradition) on time, federal workers and millitary personnel have been short-checked once or twice.

But a few months back the attorney general issued a ruling that said, in effect, no pay, no work. He said if Congress didn't give agencies their new budgets on time -- or let them keep working under a thing we call a "continuing resolution" -- the only thing they could legally do is shut down.

We reached that point Tuesday afternoon when the Senate and House were still working on a continuing resolution that would allow the U.S. government to remain open today. You folks probably figure that as much money as members of Congress make they could do their jobs and complete tasks on time. Well, that is a very unsophisticated way to look at it.

Members of Congress have been busy as heck this year, solving unemployment and inflation problems, doing a little politicking and recovering from what we call "district work periods" which is what you would call a vacation.

Everybody says it will be okay. We say that a lot in Washington. Sometimes it is even true. But we always mean it when we say it. And that should count for something.

Because of all the publicity about the possible government shut-down, a lot of people who work for the government (most here do) are wondering about their status Wednesday. Will there be a government tomorrow? callers ask. Do we come to work? Do we get paid? Questions like that.

We aren't really sure what is going to happen. Although we are assured it will work out all right I think I will get this letter off while the Postal Service is still making house calls. Federal workers have been told to report for duty for the time being.

I'm sure it will work out all right. Congress is planning to begin a month-long vacation next week, so things seem to be normal.

But just in case: You know those federal job applications I keep sending you? Hold off for a couple of days until I get back to you.