The Evolution of the Pickup Stock Rack

Looking at the evolution of the pickup stock rack, which was a valuable piece of old farm and ranch equipment.

Pickup Stock Rack Full

Stock racks allow the farmer to load considerably larger and bulkier materials for hauling than the pickup bed alone provided for.

Photo Courtesy WW Manufacturing; www.wwmanufacturing.com

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Recently, while examining the line of old farm and ranch equipment offered at a farm auction, I found all the artifacts necessary to show the evolution of the stock rack.

First we should examine the evolution of the car. There was the car with a rumble seat, then a coupe with a small bed behind called a “pick-me-up,” and finally a real pickup with an enclosed cab and narrow bed behind.

Good engineering placed three stake holes in each side of the pickup bed where stakes could be installed to hold sideboards that allowed transport of bulky loads. This encouraged livestock owners to invent slatted sideboards with gates to haul livestock like a cow and calf or maybe three large calves or even a horse. The earliest homemade designs used wagon rods with eye ends inserted into gate hinges to hold it all together. This contraption became known as the pickup stock rack.

I remember as a little boy helping my father build a stock rack for our Ford pickup. This was before electricity arrived, so we drilled every hole in the wooden racks with a brace and bit. We used carriage head bolts so the inside would be smooth, with the square nuts on the outside. We dug holes for the pickup’s back tires at a corral gate to lower the bed, making it easier for livestock to leap up into the bed.

The next step in the evolution of the stock rack was construction of a “slide-in” unit complete with its own floor, welded metal pipes for sides and better gate latches to hold it together. We kept our new rack tipped up, resting on a gas barrel, so we could back up close, lift and push, and the stock rack was loaded. Some people began building livestock loading chutes with slanted floors to make the loading easier; livestock no longer had to jump.

Larger pickups and small trucks were soon equipped with stock racks of various sizes and designs; some fit onto or slid into the truck beds. The final step was the invention of the tandem horse trailer. But at one time in my life, a pickup stock rack was the cat’s meow.

My favorite stock rack story involved a friend of a friend, since deceased, who paid his way through four years of college at a well-known Lubbock, Texas, school. He did that by hauling whiskey from Amarillo (wet) to Lubbock (dry), concealed under the wooden floor of a pickup stock rack with a paint horse standing on top of it.

Once a week for eight semesters, he loaded his paint horse into his Chevrolet pickup, drove leisurely to Amarillo, unloaded the horse, raised the wooden floor and packed the area below with pints of whiskey lying flat. After lowering the floor, he spread some hay, rearranged the horse biscuits, loaded up Old Paint and drove back to Lubbock. As I remember he was never stopped in all his journeys, but did have to make one concession. He finally bought a pair of wind goggles for Old Paint, whose eyes sometimes watered in the west Texas winds. FC 

Delbert Trew is a freelance writer, retired rancher and supervisor of the Devil’s Rope Museum in McLean, Texas. Contact him at Trew Ranch, Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002; (806) 779-3164; email: trewblue@centramedia.net.