Harold “Red Dog” Mansperger, a longtime Antelope Valley resident, trucker and Rural Olympics competitor, died Thursday afternoon following quadruple bypass surgery performed the day before. He was 76.
“’Red Dog’ not only had a colorful name,” said Debbie Smith, deputy manager of the Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival, which conducts the Rural Olympics. “He was one of the Valley’s most colorful characters.
“Anyone who knew him, if they saw someone on a tractor, they’d think of ‘Red Dog’. Boy, he and his racing tractors. People would be taking bets to see if he would flip his tractor during the race. And he always cross the finish line standing up on his tractor. You’d wonder how he was able to stay on it.”
Mansperger was known for his daredevil style in the Rural Olympics’ antique tractor race, his antics and skills in the gravel truck and transfer event, as a member of the Rural Olympics Hall of Fame (inducted in 2006) and as a founding member of The Rusty Relics, the local branch  of the Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor Association.
Born in Willowbrook when his parents were visiting relatives, Mansperger came to the Antelope Valley when he was three days old and grew up on his parents’ small farm in Palmdale. A U.S. Army veteran, Mansperger served during the Korean conflict.
For many years he ran Red Dog Trucking and did back hoe and tractor work.
“He was a valley staple--grew up here, spent his whole life here,” said Ron Hanson, Rusty Relics’ membership director. “It won’t be the same without him.”
“He had a rough, scruffy exterior, but also had a heart of gold,” said Rusty Relics president David Pickus. “And he had an almost mischievous smile. He saw humor in life.
“The last (Rusty Relics) meeting we had, I looked into his blue eyes and saw that they were tired. He looked like he was having a hard time. He was a survivor who fought until the last.”
Mansperger’s wife of 37 years, Leesa, said despite his deteriorating health, he drove big rig trucks until about a year and a half ago.
“It would take him a long time to get up into the truck, and he’d have his oxygen on full for a few minutes so he could catch his breath. Once he did that, he’d start driving,” she said. “It hurt him not to be active.
“Not long ago he said, ‘I don’t want to be worthless. I want to get up and move.’ He didn’t want to sit around.”