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Hee Haw Valley proprietor to move on

Candice Reed
For the North County Times

VISTA --- When Bob Tupa was a young Marine, he read a book on how to use one's imagination and he took it to heart. Without a good imagination, he never would have turned his home in rural unincorporated Vista into an animal farm, complete with donkey rides and playful pigs.

"When I went to the bank and asked for a $250 loan and told them what I was going to do with it, they looked at me real funny," said Tupa, 76. "The problem with most people is that they're afraid to use their imagination, afraid of what people will think."

Tupa says he has never worried about what other people think. After 47 years at his farm on East Vista Way, he and his wife are ready for a change of scenery, which will occur next month when they move to Carson Valley in Nevada. As they pack their belongings for the trip, the gentleman farmer chuckles from his memories of coping with unimaginative bureaucrats.

"Years ago I got fined for something, but I should have been exempt because I had a farm," he said. "But the (county) officials told me that my pigs didn't exist. Well, that was just down right insulting to my pigs. I tried to get (the officials) to apologize but they never did."

In 1957, he received his first mail-order donkey and opened his animal theme park. He named the place Hee Haw Valley. The sign still catches the attention of northbound drivers as they fly past on their way to Bonsall.

"I enjoy knowing what Hee Haw Valley is all about," said Cheryl Brickman, 46, of Vista. "I went there for, I think, my fifth birthday and I remember being terrified of the pigs. A lot of new people to the area see the sign and think they made a wrong turn somewhere."

To add to their confusion, Tupa's sign also reads, "1,254 miles from Ogallala."

"Ogallala is a place in Nebraska near the Platte River where Buffalo Bill lived," Tupa said laughing. "It just sounds funny. It's my crazy imagination again."

The animal farm lasted until 1974 when insurance rates became too high for Tupa to continue. He closed the farm to the public, but donkeys and goats still wander the 4.5-acre compound while ducks and geese still play in the pond. But Tupa didn't go quietly.

"I like to stir the pot," he said, smiling as he displayed badges and buttons he made over the years to poke fun at officials. "I have been told I have an attitude problem."

There is the sign on his property that announces, "Our donkeys don't wear pants," which, Tupa says, was his response to a movement in the 1960s to cover up the hind ends of animals.

"Well that just didn't make sense," he said, laughing. "So I just made fun of them."

Then there was the time he picketed government offices, when officials wanted to tear down his signs. He wore a 10-gallon hat and cowboy boots, and carried a giant sign.

"They made me come in the chambers because I was getting on the television and the newspaper," he said. "I made my point and my signs stayed."

Jack Tidwell remembers when Tupa brought his donkey, Swaps, to an Oceanside City Council meeting.

"I remember reading that Bob brought his donkey right into the chambers to get some sort of award from the mayor for appearing in the fiesta put on by the mission," said Tidwell, 77, of Vista. "I never heard of such a thing and people thought he was crazy. Like a fox is what I thought."

Tupa and his wife Pat, a retired nurse from Tri-City Medical Center, will be taking Mikey the donkey along on their move as well as a few dogs and a goat."

"It's time to move on and start trouble somewhere else," said Tupa. "As always, I will use my imagination."

12/26/01

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