Once upon a time the veld was green and lush and pretty. The animals all enjoyed the season of plenty, grew fat, and multiplied, They had everything they could possibly wish for and told themselves how lucky they were.
But seasons change, as they are destined to do. Autumn became winter, the waterholes became places of dispute and the grass withered away to become dry, tasteless and scarce.
“We have to do something,” some animals said, “if this goes on, there won’t be enough for us.” This was, of course, not quite true. The age-old problem was that certain animals thought they were better than others, hence they wanted it all to themselves. “We’ll herd the others up in dismal camps, then they’ll go away. We’ll be able to rule here…”
Like in all conflicts, there were no winners. Those – who thought they then ruled over the veld – continued fighting amongst themselves, while the others – cooped up in impossible conditions – could hardly survive.
And then a spark caused the dry grass to catch fire. What caused it? No-one was entirely sure. Maybe the superior group wanted more and more. Or maybe those in the camps simply had to escape. But somewhere along the line, the grass caught fire. It could have been lightning, or a neglected campfire. Who knows…?
At first, only the really observant animals started moving away from the threat. Soon, however, the fire started spreading in all directions, leaving not one of the animals of the plain safe. Some fled in the wrong direction, and died. Others chose different routes. In the end, they were all in danger of succumbing to the flames.
Most of them chose to flee to what they thought were safer places, even though it involved a terrible journey over water and mountains. Although many died during these journeys, many more survived.
And then, when they arrived at their destinations, they had to face a new problem: there were already animals there, with their own waterholes and their own pastures. Some of their hosts were – initially at least – quite prepared to share what they had; while others snorted and growled and chased them away.
The host-animals started looking at the fleeing animals rather carefully. Were they all from those horrible camps? Or were there – hidden in the throng – some of the animals that started the chaos? And the host-animals became scared, whispering amongst themselves that they had to be careful. Also, as these new arrivals were hungry and in need of shelter, they ate the grass and started sleeping in the shade of the trees formally belonging to others. And some of the hosts became angry, no longer whispering but shouting, telling the refugees to go away.
By then it was too late. “Where would we go?” They asked. “This is our new home…”
And the hosts had no answer.
The animals that caused the trouble originally, slowly gathered again. They spoke amongst themselves about the green pastures they now lived in, wondering why they should share the abundance with everyone. “No,” they said, “this cannot be. We have to make a plan…”
And they did.
Until the season changed again and the next great veldfire threatened them all. Only, this time there was nowhere to flee to…