EPPING — As the old proverb goes, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."
Nine-year-old Ryan Hoelzel refused to give up on his dream to enter a calf in 4-H shows this year after his first one got away, so the future farmer has now found himself a new calf, and soon he'll show him off at the Hopkinton and Deerfield fairs.
"I worked him yesterday and he was really good," Ryan said Monday.
Ryan's first attempt at buying a calf didn't go so well. The Epping Elementary School fourth-grader saved up $350 to buy a 1-year-old Belted Galloway, but the steer he named Panda got spooked and ran away from the man who was delivering it to Ryan's family farm on Fremont Road in Epping last month.
The steer remained on the loose for five days before it was eventually lured back by a mother cow brought in by the Dover farmer who sold the steer to Ryan. After it was caught, Ryan and his parents decided that Panda was a little too much for him to handle, so he was sent back and Ryan's money was returned.
After learning of his dilemma, Brenda Barthelemy, whose family owns a farm just down the road in Fremont, offered up a 2-month-old Pinzgauer calf for Ryan to enter in the feeder calf category at the upcoming fairs.
Barthelemy is bottle feeding the calf that Ryan has named Chewy, but soon it will be brought to his family farm where he'll continue to raise it as he prepares for the shows.
"He has to keep weight measurements and make sure it's growing properly. It's a big responsibility and he has to do a lot of documentation," said Ryan's mother, Mary Hoelzel.
Until he can bring him home, Ryan is visiting Chewy at the Barthelemys about every other day.
"I got a whole thing of brushes for Easter and I'm going to use them to brush him and we're going to try to give him a bath the next time we go over," said Ryan, who's working out a purchase agreement for the calf.
So far, he and Chewy seem to be hitting it off.
"I just feel more comfortable with Chewy," said Ryan, who named the calf Chewy because he likes to chew on his clothes.
His mother is impressed with how well the two are getting along.
"They have bonded so perfectly. He taught him how to walk and he's been walking him up and down the driveway and playing with him. The cow minds better than our dog does," she said, laughing.
After Ryan told his story of the wayward steer to the New Hampshire Union Leader and several TV news stations, generous donors gave him another $350 to add to his bank account. Ryan plans to use the money to buy a new halter, clippers, and pay for entry fees and other costs related to his new calf.
"It's all going into the calf. He's not spending it on anything else," his mother said.