Most of us have thought there ought to be a better way to butter corn. It is awkward and the butter always streams off the corn onto the plate. A common table knife leaves a lot to be desired. Those of us with a little less culture simply roll the cob over a cube of butter and forget how it looks.

Until a year-and-a-half ago, I thought that no one had ever tried to create an implement for the buttering of corn. That was when my in-laws gathered the family together in Salt Lake City for a humanitarian purpose. They were going to Brazil and wanted to distribute some of their possessions among family members.There were a number of odds and ends that they did not want any more, but thought they would be useful for the right people. In a highly organized fashion, they placed all these items on a table in a storage room and asked each of their children (and spouses) to take turns filing in and out of the room to choose one. No one could take more than one item at a time. There was something about this bizarre event that brought out my most flippant qualities.

There were some interesting items, such as a large mirror that appealed to us, and some inconsequential ones, such as old loose-leaf note books, duffle bags and canned goods. As the afternoon wore on, we took turns going into the room and emerging with a certain favored item. The mood turned noticeably light, and jokes began in earnest.

On one of our trips into the room, the corn butterer caught my eye. It was yellow plastic in the shape of a tiny snow shovel that looked as if it were intended to wrap itself around the cob of corn. It was still in its original package, now somewhat aged, but the item itself never used. It was probably some coveted gift that someone would receive after subscribing to a magazine or opening a bank account. It was too large to have come in cereal box.

Unfortunately, no member of the family seemed to detect the undeniable worth of this practical object. It just stayed there on the table. When the table was almost empty, I playfully rescued the corn butterer and with appropriate fanfare presented it to Kent and Nedra Sorensen, my brother and sister-in-law.

I told them that this seemed a natural gift for their home and encouraged them to take it with gratitude. They refused, and gave it back, a frivolous little exercise that continued between us the rest of the afternoon. I wanted desperately for them to have it, and incredibly enough they left with it at the end of the day, although they had a discouraged look in their eyes. I had the uneasy feeling that I had not seen the last of the corn butterer.

Sure enough, for Christmas, Kent and Nedra sent me a small present. When I opened it, I found the corn butterer, still unused in its original cardboard home. They included a note saying that they had realized that I secretly wanted it very much and they had no intention of denying me. It was mine to keep.

I was not ready to concede defeat. I stored the butterer away in a safe place, and waited until a suitable time to spring. On Kent's birthday I happened to be in Salt Lake City, so I presented him with a brightly wrapped gift and requested that Nedra help him open it, because it had special meaning for both of them.

It had been awhile. They were unsuspecting. As they opened it and realized that the corn butterer had returned, they seemed crestfallen. I would have sworn that something had snapped inside them. They were disappointed and they said little afterward - a bad sign. Nevertheless, I took comfort in the fact that I had unloaded this "bad penny" once again, and our bizarre little exchange had finally ended.

I promptly forgot about it. But when our family gathered to open our Christmas gifts this year, I was shocked to see a small square gift under the tree from Kent and Nedra. Fearfully and cautiously, I opened it, and gazed once again on the dreaded corn butterer, this time miraculously removed from its original wrapping and mounted, permanently, in a frame.

Across the top in cross-stitched, impressive lettering were the words CORN BUTTERER and below the flimsy little thing was embroidered a descriptive phrase, TOO GOOD TO BE USED. My heart sank! Nedra had actually gotten the last word!

As clever as I thought I had been - Nedra had been MORE clever. By removing it from its wrapping and mounting it in a frame, she had succeeded in personalizing the corn butterer. Sending it back now would amount to an insult! It was mine forever, and there was nothing I could do about it.

So I gave up and memorialized it by hanging it up on the wall of the family room. You win, Nedra - with one caveat: You better not write about it!