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If the Pied Piper came calling today, would you follow? For me, I suppose, it would depend on the tune.
Last Friday marked the traditional date the legendary Pied Piper of Hamelin strolled out of the German town with its kinder in tow. It's only been a few weeks since I talked with a vacationing friend who had just visited Lower Saxony, where Hamelin is found and I've had the legendary piper on my mind.
For those who've forgotten the story from the days of listening to or reading the Grimm Brothers fairy tale, it was June 26, 1285, that a man came into Hamelin playing his pipe.
The sounds seduced the town's children, who followed the piper, without question, in a parade that led out of town. Neither the children nor the piper were seen again.
The lesson to us may be to pay close attention to the messages we listen to, and to be more careful about the deals we enter into.
According to the story, the town was suffering a terrible infestation of rats and a man billing himself as the best rat-catcher in the land showed up and promised relief. The town's leaders accepted his offer. The man played his pipe, miraculously luring Hamelin's rats into the river, where they drowned.
It's then that the story turns sinister. The stingy town council reneged on the deal and denied the piper his payment. The piper left, promising revenge.
Some time later, while the townsfolk were praying in the church on the feast of St. John and Paul (last Friday), the piper strolled back into Hamelin, playing the pipe. This time, however, his tune mesmerized not rats, but the children, who followed him out of the town into a cave.
In a definitely more sinister version of the story, the Pied Piper led the kids, like the rats he was hired to remove, into the river.
Another twist with a happier ending has the children returned after the town paid a large ransom, many times what the piper had originally asked for exterminating the rats.
I was in Hamelin a couple of years ago but missed, by a couple of weeks, the play staged each summer retelling the story.
The moral of the story may be pretty simple, and one worth following today. Pay your bills, follow through on promises and take care to know the people your do business with.
If the Pied Piper came calling today, he probably wouldn't be playing a flute, but perhaps one of the computer or video games that seem to hypnotize children - and adults - for countless hours.
The Best of Perry County
I've received several replies to the story we ran June 18 seeking readers' input in choosing the best features, locations and attractions in the county.
Please take the time to jot down your thoughts and drop off, mail or e-mail your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Several groups charged with promoting tourism are studying ways to enhance the quality of life in our community and will make good use of the information.