On a good day, Jon doesn’t get kicked by Jon the steer, and Ben doesn’t have to chase after runaway Ben the steer.

And both boys and their namesakes learn something new.

“I thought it was going to be hard to train them at first. I mean they’re kind of big,” said Jon Wilcox, 10. “Sometimes it’s really easy. But when they’re in a cranky mood, when they want their milk, they’ll be tough.”  

Jon and his brother, 11-year-old Ben, are helping to train the 3-month-old Durham steers for Ed Jillson, owner of Jillson’s Farm and Sugarhouse in Sabattus. The boys’ mother works at the farm, and the boys often help out there. When Jillson decided to get a couple of steers, he asked the Wilcox brothers if they wanted to be involved.

“So they wouldn’t get them mixed up, I named them after them boys. They liked it. So Ben leads Ben and Jon leads Jon,” Jillson said. 

It’s part lesson for the boys, part help for the farm.

The brothers spend time with the steers, sometimes for just 15 minutes, sometimes for an hour or more, petting the animals and getting them used to their voices. With advice from Jillson — be patient, stand in the correct position, use a rod to guide them — they’ve taught the steers to back up and stop on command. They’ve also taught them to walk on a lead. 

Mostly. 

“When we take them out, mine usually runs around because he’s been cooped up all day,” Ben said. “It’s pretty fun, except when you want him to stop.”

Which recently led Jillson to offer some new advice.

“I said, ‘Remember, you’re leading them, they’re not leading you,'” he said. 

Although the calves weigh just about 150 pounds now, they’ll gain hundreds of pounds each over the next few years. When fully grown, they will haul wood and sap for Jillson’s sugarhouse.    

For now, Jon and Ben walk Jon and Ben through Jillson’s, around the barn and down to the sugar shack. Soon they’ll use yolks to teach the animals to work together as a team. 

Neither of the boys want to own a farm or work with animals as part of a career. But for now, Jon and Ben are enjoying Jon and Ben.

“They’re cute, they’re cuddly. Well, their tail is disgusting,” Ben said. “But they’re fun.”  

Have an idea for a pet feature? Contact Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or e-mail her at [email protected]

Ben, left, 11, and Jon, 10, Wilcox work with Ed Jillson’s 3-month-old steers, Ben and Jon, respectively, after school on Jillson’s Sabattus farm Thursday. “In the summer, we should have more time to train them,” Jon said. Jillson named the steers after the boys.


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