Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summer Butter

My friend always used to say "What's up, buttercup?" Down East this buttercup is what's up.

When I was little an eon ago, we'd pick these and hold them under each other's chins. If we saw yellow reflected on the baby fat we still had, as it always would because of the high lustre of the petals, we'd act surprised and say "oh, you like butter."

The irony is that if the cows whose butterfat went into the butter had eaten buttercups, the butter would be rendered inedible from the various irritants in these plants. To begin with, these little sundrops don't tolerate being turned to cud, and would cause the cow's gums to blister.

Even though there are some varieties of ranunculus that are lethal, I don't think that was what Thoreau was concerned with when he wrote "At one leap I go from the just opened buttercup to the life-everlasting." I know from High School English that he was expressing his Yankee transcendentalism. Taking it to the pond, where the buttercups grew alongside the croaking frogs their scientific name derives from, long before any beatniks would take it on the road.

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