Robert Tupa is a Johnson Lane resident and I got a chance to sit down with this neighbor and hear his stories from back in 1943 when he headed west from Minnesota to the employment office in Reno. They got him a job at the old Buckeye Ranch working for the Dangberg's for $2.50 a day.
Back then the ranch managed 20,000 sheep and 57 draft horses. Tupa recalls an Indian named Bondo who worked on the ranch. He said Bondo was a "mean old guy," and if hay fell off the wagon, Bondo would give him hand gestures, and no one got along with him. Bondo would lean on his shovel and pick out the whiskers off his chin. He'd mumble, "If you take more than one shower a week, it'll weaken you."
One night there was a gun fight and Tupa wrapped his mattress around him to ward off the flying bullets. He says you can still see the holes in the walls of the old ranch house.
"One of the hay stackers was the perfect image of Teddy Roosevelt," Tupa said. "Back then they had two outhouses; one for the boss that had store-bought toilet paper in it, and one for the other 29 employees who got the Sears, Roebuck catalog for the paper."
Then Tupa went to work for the Cosser Ranch 1 mile south of the old Kingsbury Grade road. He said George Allerman had lived in Virginia City, and he'd look out to Kingsbury and he'd see a patch of green, so in 1854, he bought that little patch and called it the Cosser Ranch. George was married to Agnes Cosser.
Tupa then went and joined the Marine Corps for a few years in 1947. He even got an "honor man" award for digging the deepest fox hole on the beach in San Diego. He met his wife Patricia and they were married in San Francisco while he was still in the Marine Corps. They moved to San Diego and bought the Hee Haw Valley Ranch in Vista. This was Robert's life passion, while Patricia had a career as a nurse at Tri City Hospital. I remember seeing the sign from the road for the Hee Haw Valley; it said "The Donkey's Don't Wear Pants." Patricia and Robert Tupa have been married for 57 years, the last five years right here in Johnson Lane. These are Robert Tupa's memories from his days in 1943 as a ranch hand.
We had a bit of a scare this week. It was 4:50 p.m. and the dogs wanted outside. When Frosty came back inside the house, she had a 2-inch hole in her side. It wasn't bleeding, but I knew she needed stitches. I would have done it myself, but she wouldn't drink the whiskey I offered her. I drove her to the vet, and got her all stitched up. So the next morning when it got above freezing, I walked around the back yard fence with my flashlight. It took me two tries, but I found the culprit. There was a broken low branch on a shrub against the fence. I kicked it off and collected the hair left behind. I guess I learned I need to keep inspecting the fence all winter long. Poor Frosty, sorry my girl, bad dog owner...
n Lisa Welch is a Johnson Lane resident and can be reached at 267-9350.