Ridin’ for the Brand



Donnie was sitting on his porch when we passed. It had been three days since the hurricane. His house was missing half its shingles, and the city had no power or water. Next door, workmen were ripping up the damaged rubber roof of a business, in order to put down plastic tarps that locals call “blue roofs.”

But Donnie’s American flag was flying. His little dogs were in the yard on leashes to keep them back from a downed line. His door was open to the air.

“Just a man in his abode, grateful to be alive,” he said.

Donnie was shirtless and wore kid-glove moccasins with fringe and a rodeo buckle with a big R on it. The plywood on his windows had been spray-painted with slogans:


MAGA Trump 2020

Ridin’ 4 the Brand

The Law West of Ryan St!! TX [with a ranch brand]


He said the slogan about the law meant he and neighbors helped the police keep order in this town, west of Ryan Street.

“The ‘Ridin’ has to do with cowboy stuff,” he said. He said he owns a ranch elsewhere in Louisiana but is not sure they will be in business after this. He said he loved that reality show about cowboys in Alabama. He was in love with that guy’s wife in the show.

“She wouldn’t stand a chance if I got around her,” he said, covering his chest with one arm.

Donnie had been in Lake Charles for three hurricanes: Ike, Rita, and now Laura. He had made a little saferoom in his hallway for the storm and rode it out sitting on his ice cooler, praying.

“I’m Catholic,” he said, “and would call myself a good Christian, but there are a few things I might need to be forgiven for along the way.”

Forecasts had predicted as much as nine feet of flooding in the city, but that had not come to pass. He thought maybe the prayer did the trick.

“All these people going past and they don’t seem to be doing anything,” he said from his vantage on the porch. “Except the National Guard, carrying loads of bricks from downtown.” He figured a building must have collapsed but had not been down there, though it was a few blocks away. The President had visited the city the day before.

Donnie asked if there were a bunch of people voting for Trump in St. Louis. He was glad to hear there were. He grinned and called, “I don’t want to have to change my deal to Ridin’ with Biden!”


Read more by John Griswold here.

John Griswold

John Griswold is a staff writer at The Common Reader. His most recent book is a collection of essays, The Age of Clear Profit: Essays on Home and the Narrow Road (UGA Press 2022). His previous collection was Pirates You Don’t Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life. He has also published a novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, and a narrative nonfiction book, Herrin: The Brief History of an Infamous American City. He was the founding Series Editor of Crux, a literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press. His work has been included and listed as notable in Best American anthologies.