The Lone Little Oak


| June 2004



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Ralph Hall

In 1915, A.F. Tolasana disgustedly abandoned his brand-new Little Oak tractor in a field near Glascow, Mont. Little did he know then he would sell that very same tractor - out of that same field - 50 years later to Everett Cabarett, a tractor collector from Scobey, Mont. Good thing he returned for it, too, as that 1915 Model TNS Standard Little Oak 22-44 tractor remains the only one in existence.

In 1993, Ralph Hall of rural Atwater, Minn., happened upon a sale bill for the Little Oak at Everett Cabarett's estate sale. 'As a kid I'd heard stories that a tractor had been manufactured 12 miles up the road in Willmar,' Ralph says. 'But until that auction, I'd never seen one.'

When he finally saw the tractor, Ralph decided to bring it home. 'It had been manufactured here in Willmar, so here was where I thought it belonged.'

One of Cabarett's granddaughters had a different idea. On that same July day in 1993, the bidding for the rare machine grew higher and higher, until only Ralph and the granddaughter remained. Ralph says he finally reached the limit he had set for buying the machine, and reluctantly threw in the towel. 'It didn't seem like the granddaughter and her husband were going to quit until they got it,' he says.

Ralph felt sad, but figured he'd wait until the next time it was for sale. 'At least I'd seen it,' he says.

Opportunity knocks again

Nine years later, the opportunity to buy the rare tractor returned. By that time, Ralph was 72 years old and unsure if he'd ever have a chance to buy the Little Oak. In the years since he'd been outbid, Ralph's research had essentially proven what he suspected: The farm machine abandoned in Big Sky country was the only Little Oak tractor still in existence.