TexasEscapes.comTexas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History
Columns: History, Humor, Topical and Opinion
Over 1800 Texas Towns & Ghost Towns
NEW : : TEXAS TOWNS : : GHOST TOWNS : : TEXAS HOTELS : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : : ARCHITECTURE : : IMAGES : : SITE MAP : : SEARCH SITE
HOME
SEARCH SITE
ARCHIVES
RESERVATIONS
Texas Hotels
Hotels
Cars
Air
Cruises
 
 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Cow feed, from slab to sack

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

Today as I pass by the towering feed bins on ranches and observe the automatic feeders in ranch pickups, I shake my head remembering the good old days. Like all progress, the evolution of ranch livestock feeding has changed greatly, and for the better.

Our former ranch owner, Charlie McMurtry, great uncle of Larry McMurtry of "Lonesome Dove" fame, told of his earliest efforts at winter-feeding range cattle. It seems the cotton gins of the area were seeking more profit from processing cotton and began compressing cotton seed and gin trash retracted from the cotton into slabs with the seed oil tying it all together like glue.

The slabs came out from rollers like sheets of plywood about two inches in thickness. Gin employees broke the hot slabs into large chunks and stacked them on edge in boxcars for shipment.

When a rancher purchased a carload of slabs he unloaded them into his wagons and hauled them to his cake house all the while standing the slabs on edge.

In order to feed the cattle, ranch employees reloaded their wagons, making sure they had axes and hatchets along to break up the slabs into smaller pieces to distribute the feed more evenly among the cows.

McMurtry would laugh and tell how on the feed grounds, each cow would pick up the biggest chunk of feed she could carry in her mouth, run off to the plum bushes and gnaw around the edges maybe all day until the piece was finally devoured, just like a coyote with a bone.

He built a somewhat centrally located cake house about three miles south of today's ghost town of Rockledge, which had a sidetrack for the Rock Island Railroad.

The cake house had a wooden floor raised up to wagon-bed height for easy loading and was used into the late 1940s. The wagon tracks leading away from the early day cake house to the outlying feed grounds of the ranch can still be seen today.

When winter feeding cattle was proven to be profitable the demand for cottonseed cake skyrocketed. The feed evolved from slabs to cubes and ground into meal form was transported in jute sacks holding 100 pounds and testing some 50 percent protein in content.

At first all feed was hauled in wagons. Next came light trucks and finally, as roads improved, tractor-trailers were used to transport tons of cubes to the ranches.

Every old-time cowboy I ever knew could tell stories by the hour about hearing the air horns of semi-trucks loaded with cake arriving just at dark or 2:30 in the morning to be unloaded into the cake house. Unloading 300 sacks of cake, stacking them up high in small cake houses was no small feat, no matter how strong you were.

Every cowboy's wife could recall gathering and counting gunny sacks to sell to the sack man who came about twice a year to buy sacks. Ranchers like my father always gave the ranch women the sack money. For most, it was the only bonus they ever received for their hard work.

May 25, 2010 Column Delbert Trew
More "It's All Trew"
Delbert Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164, by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail at trewblue@centramedia.net. For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears weekly.

Related Topics:
Ranching | Texas Animals | Texas Panhandle |
More Topic:
Texas Towns | Texas | TE Online Magazine | Columns |
 
HOME | TEXAS ESCAPES ONLINE MAGAZINE | TEXAS HOTELS
TEXAS TOWN LIST | TEXAS GHOST TOWNS | TEXAS COUNTIES

Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South | West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast
TRIPS | STATES PARKS | RIVERS | LAKES | DRIVES | MAPS

TEXAS FEATURES
Ghosts | People | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII | History | Black History | Rooms with a Past | Music | Animals | Books
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

TEXAS ARCHITECTURE | IMAGES
Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters | Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators | Lodges | Museums | Stores | Banks | Gargoyles | Cornerstones | Pitted Dates | Drive-by Architecture | Old Neon | Murals | Signs | Ghost Signs | Then and Now
Vintage Photos

TRAVEL RESERVATIONS | HOTELS | USA | MEXICO

Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Recommend Us | Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
Website Content Copyright 1998-2008. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: May 25, 2010