There is a place in Africa to the south of Timbuktu
Where mighty rivers flow across the plain.
Where elephants and antelopes graze under towering peaks,
Whose snows are never melted by the rain.
Forests of acacia trees grow tall and green and straight,
And elegant giraffes feed on their leaves.
There are lions, leopards, hunting dogs, cheetahs and hyenas
And every other predator that breaths.
At the foot of Kilimanjaro with it's cap of gleaming snow,
Parting endless azure heavens like a wedge
There's a hidden copse of verdant trees and waving, wind-blown grass
Where lived a fine young wildebeest called Reg.
His horns were sharp as rapiers, his legs both fleet and strong.
He was swift of though and his stride was long and sure.
He was proud and bold and brave, or at least he thought he was.
He feared not leopard's pounce nor the mighty lion's roar.
Reg was different from the others, he stood out from the crowd.
Most wildebeest fear lives of solitude.
But Reg saw other wildebeest with eyes full of contempt -
Stupid, worthless, ugly beasts, just good for lion food.
The hidden copse was his domain, he'd defend it with his life.
He'd not share the place with any kind of beast.
He'd chase off herds of zebras and charge troops of baboons,
And as for herds of elephants, well, he'd snort at them at least.
Reg was happy in his Eden, till one day a cloud of dust
Rose above the Serengeti like a storm.
Ten thousand head of wildebeest were heading for his copse.
Reg thought a while and soon a plan was born.
Ten thousand head of wildebeests would devour all his grass,
Their dung attract a billion biting flies,
But Reg's plan was well though out, as cunning as can be.
The wildebeests would get a real surprise.
He found a patch of tawny dust and rolled onto his back.
He kicked and squirmed and rolled and finally stood.
Then he draped around his neck some dried out yellow grass.
His reflection in the waterhole was good.
There was just one more thing missing now, he needed larger teeth,
So he looked around to see what he could find.
He found some sharp white pebbles and put them in his mouth,
While the cloud of dust grew closer all the time.
Once more he checked on his reflection, and a lion stared straight back;
A lion with pebble teeth and a dry grass mane.
He gave himself a pebbly grin, pleased with what he saw,
And went to face the herd upon the plain.
The herd were heading for his copse, but young Reg barred the way.
He made a sound which was supposed to be a roar,
And though it came out a rather feeble grunt,
The herd were petrified by what they saw.
A tawny lion stood before them, it's mane blowing in the breeze,
Baring big white teeth and making funny sounds.
Ten thousand wildebeests ground to a halt,
And dust flew as they stopped and turned around.
Reg watched the dust cloud disappear towards the distant hills.
His little copse was safe from dung and flies.
But now the other wildebeests were gone Reg was unaware
That a brand new set of problems would arise.
While Reg watched with satisfaction the wildebeests as they fled,
A pride of lions made themselves at home.
They settled into Reg's copse and laid down on the grass.
Reg too would flee if only he had known.
Happy with a great day's work, Reg was just about to shed his great disguise
When he trod on something hairy, long and lean.
"Ow! That's my tail!" A voice cried out, and much to his dismay
There stood the biggest lion he'd ever seen.
The lion laughed a loud guffaw and called out to his pride.
"There's a lion here who really must be cursed.
He has dreadful teeth, a dusty coat and a mane like old dry grass.
He's as ugly as a wildebeest. Maybe worse."
A lioness said "Never mind the way he looks, he can stay with us.
He'll help us hunt the herds of wildebeests."
Poor Reg just grinned a rather sickly grin.
He could not shed his disguise just yet a least.
So the pride sat down to tea, a wildebeest that they had caught before
And invited Reg to come and eat his fill.
Reg said "Thanks, you're very kind,
But I'm not that hungry. In fact I feel quite ill."
The lioness said "That's a shame, but you'll feel better soon.
We'll look after you. Lions must stick together.
With us around you won't be lonely anymore,
And if you're lucky we might just stay for ever.
Then Reg wished he hadn't chased the wildebeests away.
He wished that he had let them share his home.
If he hadn't been so selfish things wouldn't be so bad.
If only he hadn't wanted to be alone.
The lions gulped and slurped their meal, while Reg just ate some grass.
He dreamed of running off but didn't dare.
The lions winked and smiled at him to make him feel at home,
And Reg smiled back, but wished he was elsewhere.