by Gay Gaddis | Published by Forbes


[ARTICLE] When you live in the Texas Hill Country, risk awaits you at every bend in the road, and often, that risk has got a rattle at the end of its tail.

So we think about risk management every day, and at a life and death level. If you’re living on a ranch in Texas, you are going to have to learn to negotiate your way around a rattlesnake, whether you like it or not.

There’s no avoiding the rattlesnakes. They blend into the rocks and countryside. Their poisonous venom almost killed one of our 2,000-pound Percheron draft horses. They lurk and then spring out of nowhere and strike without warning.  We know the rattlers are there, but we have to go outside anyway. We have to manage the risk, because we can’t eliminate it.

Fortunately, generations of Texas ranchers have learned some lifesaving lessons about risk management from their dealings with the rattlesnakes, and they have passed on their country wisdom, which has really come in handy for me both out on the range and in my business.

Rattlesnake Rule #1 Develop eyes in the back of your head

Keep your eyes open and stay alert to what is around you.  And I mean all around you. Don’t just look ahead, but to the sides, and also behind you, because a threat can come from anywhere, and it’ll tend to be the one place you forgot to look.

Rattlesnake Rule #2:  Be proactive and carry a big stick

When you suspect that a threat is present, reach out and safely diffuse the situation if you can, before a major disaster happens. We carry long sticks to poke around the tall grasses, knowing that if a snake is lurking, it will strike the stick before striking you.

Rattlesnake Rule #3:  Don’t dig up more snakes than you can kill

We never pick up old boards or anything that could be sheltering a rattlesnake until we know what and how many are underneath. You can’t manage your risk until you know the facts, so don’t act until you do. And when you do act, make sure you are wearing fang-proof boots!

Update: Well—Rattlesnake Risk Management got even more personal today. I was in Austin giving a speech, and I called my husband, Lee, to check in with him, only to learn that a rattlesnake was crawling into our screened-in porch. The dogs ran like crazy, which is good news. Their rattlesnake aversion training worked. Lee followed the rattlesnake rules: he put on his rattlesnake boots and was going to shoot it, but he knew he would blow out one wall and the porch screen. So he got a hoe instead. Right then, the snake had coiled up behind a terra cotta pot by the porch door. And he killed it! Henry our dog tried to leap into the truck to escape. Thus, a new rattlesnake rule is born: when a snake rears its ugly head, kill it, but only use as much force as necessary, lest you might blow out your screens!