There was once a wanderer who arrived at a small town amongst the hills. All that he owned were the clothes on his back, all that he could carry and five skinny cows that he’d roped to his belt behind him.
“Who goes there?” cried the town gatekeeper.
“A pitiful soul in search of a home” the wanderer replied, “for my farm and my family have been lost in a flood and all that I own are the clothes on my back, all that I can carry and the five skinny cows that I’ve roped to my belt behind me.”
The gatekeeper peered through his gate with suspicion.
“Tis unlucky to house unlucky strangers. Be gone with you!”
The wanderer sighed and off he went on his way.
At the next town he spoke to the town gatekeeper and told him the very same tale.
“Tis dangerous to take in someone dirty and unclean for disease could wipe out the town. Be gone with you!”
The wanderer sighed once more and off he went on his way.
This time the wanderer bathed in a stream, he washed and prettied his clothes as much as he could, and he tried to wear an expression on his face that looked like that of a man with better times to come.
At the third town, he told the gatekeeper a slightly more upbeat version of his tale and smiled as the gatekeeper peered at him through the fence.
“You look too well and too happy to have gone though such obvious tragedy. We cannot take liars into our town sir. Be gone with you!”
The wanderer sighed and sighed again.
The next day, however, his luck changed, and he found a town who gave him a place to call his home. The only condition was that for the first year, he must grant the other townsfolk half of his harvest as payment.
For the first three days he worked as hard as he could. He built a new home and he ploughed his field and the other townsfolk were heartily impressed with his industry and progress.
Then on the fourth day the town awoke to find that the stranger had vanished.
Overhearing this discussed that evening in the town tavern, a visitor from a nearby town joined in with the conversation.
“That sounds exactly like what happened to a stranger who lived in our town but one year ago. He too went missing after only a few days.”
Peeking the whole tavern’s interest, the visitor continued with his tale.
“The man told us a tragic story: of his family and farm that he lost in a flood. When he arrived, all that he owned were the clothes on his back, all that he could carry and the four skinny cows that he’d roped to his belt behind him…”
The listening crowd were silenced in unison as they tried to unravel the wanderer’s mystery.
“…Strangest thing was,” the visitor went on, “my best cow went missing on the very same day…”