Denny Dotson, grandson of the man who killed the Little Giant tractor, works to preserve the tractor's history.
Al Anderson, Eagle Lake, Minn., with the restored Little Giant. Al did most of the body work, but engine restoration and pinstriping were completed by others. Al, an Allis-Chalmers enthusiast, passed away recently.
When Denny Dotson got a chance to buy a Little Giant tractor, he didn't think twice. "One day in 1987," he recalls, "a man put a sale bill on my desk and said, 'You're going to buy this tractor.'" The sale bill showed a Little Giant tractor to be auctioned in Fessenden, N.D. Denny knew of four Little Giants: one in North Dakota, one in Mankato, Minn., one in Canada and one in New Zealand. "I said, 'Of course we are.'"
Bob Prochaska, a Dotson employee, was sent with $5,000 in cash to buy the Fessenden tractor. Bob returned with a rusty, beat-up old tractor that had been sitting outside for at least 50 years. He died soon after beginning the restoration process.
Then, Frank dePuydt, who was rebuilding the tractor's engine, died of a heart attack at age 35. As a tribute, his brothers decided to finish what he'd started. Denny recalls a visit from the crew. "One day, the brothers came into my office and asked, 'Do you want to know why this engine stopped?' They showed me the 1/4-inch bolt that had dropped into the cylinder head. It was obvious why the tractor wouldn't move. I have that bolt in my collection."
Al Anderson (since deceased), Eagle Lake, Minn., also had a hand in the restoration. He removed the pulley four times to get it right, assembled new metal fenders with precisely the same number of rivets as the originals, had parts reproduced and got a new decal made using original company letterhead. He cleaned, sandblasted, primed and painted.
"Since I had no time agenda," Denny says, "it didn't make any difference that it took several years to restore. When it was ready to be unveiled, the whole family came to Al's workshop for a portrait. It was an exciting part of family history and company history."
Restoration moved smoothly, if slowly. "Everybody who came in contact with the Little Giant was filled with enthusiasm," he recalls, "and did the project in the best possible way. All I had to do was write checks."
The beautifully restored Little Giant Model B is on display at the Le Sueur, Minn., Pioneer Power show ground. Denny would like to get the larger Model A as a companion piece. He hopes more Little Giant trators are out there, but leads thus far have produced only parts, not a whole tractor.
Although the restored Little Giant tractor runs smoothly, Denny is reluctant to operate it at all now, and won't until he can place it in a company museum where maintenance people can work with it as needed. In the meantime, the piece is displayed on a trailer for Dotson Co. events.
Decades ago, his grandfather slayed the Little Giant tractor. Today, Denny Dotson is doing his part to keep the Little Giant legacy alive.