Like the calf Norman in the movie "City Slickers," Chip was orphaned at birth and needed human attention to survive.
Enter the family of 9-year-old Melissa Colgan, rural Lawrence, who bought Chip at a livestock sale in March two days after he was born. Just like the Billy Crystal character in the movie, Melissa fed, nurtured and cared for Chip the past five months.
Melissa's hard work paid off Friday as she and Chip earned purple-ribbon honors in the bucket calf competition at the Douglas County Free Fair. The bucket calf show features youngsters and the animals they have raised from shortly after birth as part of a 4-H project.
Melissa was one of 12 competitors in the 7- to 9-year-old age bracket and the only one to receive a purple ribbon. The other contestants, some only a head taller than their calves, all received blue ribbons for their efforts.
Competition among 10- and 12-year-olds took place after the younger children's exhibition.
DURING both shows, a judge asked the children about their calves and what they enjoyed about the project. In addition to questioning the children's knowledge about their animals, the exercise served as an experience in public speaking as they answered into a microphone connected to an arena loudspeaker. The children also paraded their calves around the judging arena to display their talents in handling the animals.
Although the highest honor may not make Chip a movie star, it did make Melissa and her mother, Marilyn Colgan, very happy.
"I think it's fun to show a calf. I like calves and cows," Melissa said with a satisfied smile. "I learned that if you bottle feed a calf when it's young, when it grows up, it's nice (to you)."
For the past five months, the Wakarusa Valley fourth-grader has fed, washed and clipped Chip's hair in preparation for the event. The loving care that Melissa shows Chip and another bucket calf at her farm has provided a maternal-like bond between Melissa and her calves, Mrs. Colgan said.
"WHEN they're out in the pasture, whenever (Melissa) goes out to feed them, all she does is call their names and shake the feed can, and they come running," Mrs. Colgan said.
She said she's proud of Melissa's dedication to her calves.
"She really stuck with it," Mrs. Colgan said. "It took a lot of integrity to get up early in the morning to get up and feed that calf on those cold March and April mornings. She's given up a lot of play time or fun time that a typical 9-year-old would have to carry through with this project."
A sequel at the fair is in the works for Chip, Melissa said. She plans to show the calf as a fat steer next year after his weight quadruples to about 1,200 pounds.