When You Are Up To Your Ass In Alligators

There is a small sign that used to hang in my dad’s office that reads, “When you are up to your ass in alligators it’s difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp”.  He passed away a long time ago, and I have that sign now.  I have it hanging the back wall of my laundry room and it’s usually the last thing I see before I walk into the garage and leave for work every day.  Occasionally, I’ll think about that sign on my drive to work and reflect on it as I’m thinking about my day ahead.  I’d like to share some of my thoughts about that sign:

  1. Ask the locals.  I’m sure the swamp engineer didn’t take any time to discuss the project with the people that use the swamp about what dangers or challenges would materialize if the water receded.  So if you are starting a big project at your company that is going to affect other people downstream, take a few moments and discuss your plans.  They just might tell you about the wildlife.
  2. Think about “what if”.  Before embarking on a project think about any long term consequences that could arise due to an environmental change.  Planning on switching your operating system, or the way you stage your inventory before production, or the metrics of an attendance plan?  What are you going to do with your alligators once the water starts moving?
  3. You might need some help.  When I think about that phrase I’m always struck with the mental picture of myself standing there alone with dozens of hungry gators, jaws flashing, all of them circling around me for a good angle to get the first bite.  It’s a different picture if I include a team of people though.  Sure, there are all in the same danger, but we would have a better chance of success for the change if we were working together towards that goal.
  4. Does the swamp really need draining?  Swamps actually are good things, but the idea here is that maybe there’s another solution to the challenge that doesn’t involve drastic change.
  5. Rise to the challenge.  Slay the gators.  Sometimes you just have to have the inner discipline and power through the problem.  Whether it’s just you alone, or you have a team beside you, knocking off those angry gators one by one until your mission is accomplished could be the only way out of the challenge.

I hope you found my article helpful.  I’d love to hear from you on how you “Drained the Swamp” and overcome your challenge.  By the way, I like my gator tail double battered in buttermilk and flour and deep fried.  Yummy.

Fried Gator:  2 pounds gator tail cut into chunks, salt and pepper, flour, cayenne pepper, buttermilk, 16 ounce vegetable oil, seafood cocktail sauce of choice

Directions  In a large bowl, toss the gator chunks into the buttermilk, and dredge with flour that has been seasoned with cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.  Double dredge the meat into the buttermilk and flour.  Using a large skillet, heat oil to 350 degrees and fry gator chunks until golden brown, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.

Serve hot and dip in the seafood cocktail sauce of your choice.  Wash it down with a cold beer.


  • Growing up in the 80s, we had this saying printed on a mirror that hung above the toilet in the downstairs bathroom. It always made me think of alligators coming up the sewer and biting my ass. LOL I was kinda stupid when I was a kid (but in a funny, Ralph Wiggum sorta way)(and not that I’m any smarter now) and I guess I missed the point. Thanks for the insight, I get it now… 30+ years later.?

  • Mom & I lived in SF mid ’70’s when I was a teen. I used to walk our neighbor’s dog every day from our middle class area of California and Broderick Sts. up to Pacific Ave, the top of Pacific Heights, very ritzy. One day I came around our usual path and I spotted a very shiny brass placque. I did not read it, thinking it was just an address or title of some lofty organization. One day, I did. Yup, turns out that was what had been engraved in black. At 63, now 50 years later, I still remember that saying. The building had been a mansion, and was at the time used as a recovery house.

  • Marshall A. Pierson

    I am looking for a copy of that sign, my Dad had one too. Know where I can find one? Thanks!

  • Will you PLEASE send me a picture of that poster!

    Back in the late ’70s, we opened a Deli in Stone Mountain, GA. My daughter was visiting from MA and, being the oldest, assumed leadership role. I left one evening with a list of “not having dones”. When I entered the prep room in the morning, that poster was waiting for me.
    What a lesson! Still laughing as I think about it now.



  • Hey Marshall– I feel like I stumbled upon a little gold nugget here. This phrase (drain the swamp, etc.) has been on my mind the past few months. As a teenager (we’re talking early ’70’s here!), I had a poster on my wall that said the exact same thing; why it ‘spoke to me’ at that time, I’m not sure. I especially liked your point #5. Sometimes we do just have to slay some alligators. 🙂 And, yes, I have had fried alligator– tastes like chicken…. Thanks Marshall!

  • This is the second time I have read this Marshall and I must admit I liked it more this time 🙂 EXCELLENT job – you have a gift my friend!

  • Good stuff! Helps me get prepared for this project that I’ve been dreading.

  • Great article…we all need these types of reminders! Number 3 and 4 are the hardest to remember when you are “putting out a fire”!

  • Great article, I really like the Fried Gator recipe at the end.

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