Andy “the Donkey Man” Rolan

He stated that,  ”This country’s not free anymore”,  the law gave him a ticket for walking along the highway. I’ve been walking along the highway for 42 years, against the traffic, like you supposed to. The fine was $5.oo. He said he wasn’t going to pay $5.oo for doing nothing. He fought the ticket in court and won. The judge told him to “go ahead and walk where you have been Andy.”


Born in Newark New Jersey, He quit school in the 7th grade to work on a peddling wagon. He and an old man sold fruits and vegetables in Newark.
In 1915, he hopped a freight train to come west. “I RODE lots of freights,” he said. “How else could you go? He came to the desert in 1931.

For 42 years Andy the Donkey Man has been a squatter on some of the most expensive land in the desert. Hell, I’ve had some of the best neighbors a man could ever ask for, Andy declared. “Movie stars, Millionaires, President Eisenhower lived just down the road a piece.” Andy said he “can’t complain about the rent. I stay in one spot ’til I’m run off. Then I find another place.”

Andy "the Donkey Man" RolanAndy lives on the desert from October to mid-May. Then he and his donkeys walk 35 miles up the mountains to a cooler spot. The donkeys pull his old cart. When it gets hotter than hell here, I go to the mountains. When it gets colder than hell up there, I come down here.

Andy got married when he was 65 but it lasted only a few days. “She was a good looker named Ruby,” he continued. “She worked in a cafe as a waitress. I told her “Lets you and I pool our resources and get a couple of acres.’ “She said ‘OK. It’s a deal! So we got hitched. “I sold 10 of my donkeys and bought Ruby a trailer for $475. She slept in the trailer. I slept in my cart. I gave her the pink slip for the trailer, signed with my name. “Then she beat it. Ruby sold the trailer for $300 cash. “She sent me a letter from San Francisco saying next time she would see me she’d have a new truck and enough money to buy our two acres. That was  seven years ago. I’m still waiting. Ruby was 45 when she married the Donkey Man.

Andy Rolan Palm Desert 1965

Around 1969, Andy was hit by a drunk driver, killing 3 of his donkeys. He was unconscious for 11 days. “I’m damn lucky to be alive, I was 69, a drunk ran into me and my cart killing three of my best jackasses. The guy didn’t have a dime”.

Andrew Rolan, better known as  “Andy the donkey man”  was Killed by a car during the early morning hours of Dec. 31, 1973, along Hwy. 111 in Palm Desert, after attending to his donkey’s. The driver was not held. Andy, growing old and losing his sight is believed to have wandered onto the highway and was struck.  Andy was 73 years old.

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