Tragedy yields the greatest prize


Generous assist: Animals that participated in the 4-H show Friday came from Santa Claus Alpacas. Lu Heiney of the farm in Fillmore, Ind., attended the show with Susie Melton, who lost 23 animals when a barn on her farm caught fire in February.

A new bond: Mattthew Matos (cuddling with Kodiak) was hit hard by the death of his favorite alpaca, Boots, in the fire last February. But he worked diligently with his new friend, donated by Santa Claus Alpacas. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — Glancing up from the yellow ribbon in his hand, Matthew Matos flashed his brother a quick smile and held up five fingers – fifth place.

Allowing just enough time for a quick photo, Matthew went back to carefully examining his award.

The prize was just one sign of success for the boy in the llama and alpaca project at this year’s Hancock County 4-H Fair after a particularly tumultuous start.

A barn fire in late February claimed the lives of 23 alpacas at the home of Wayne and Susie Melton, including Boots, the alpaca 11-year-old Matthew showed in 4-H last year and treated like a pet.

For Matthew, who has autism, the loss was especially great. He had named Boots and bonded with the animal, and finding a replacement was difficult.

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