Evolution of Grain Hauling

From grain scoops and grain trucks to grain elevators, grain hauling was made easier after the Dust Bowl years

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In the years after the Dust Bowl, farmers “made do” with what they had or could get cheap. The grain truck shown here put in years of service before being retired behind the barn.

Photo courtesy Rick Craig, www.flickr.com/photos/imrickndakota

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If you have ever spent a long, hot day on the end of a No. 10 grain scoop, this column should trigger a few memories. After the Dust Bowl ended, ample rain fell, leaving few farmers prepared to cope with abundant crops. Most farmers were too poor to purchase new equipment, so harvesting and grain hauling machinery were stretched to their limits. Our first grain truck was a well-used, ex-school bus chassis brought home by Dad along with enough materials to build a wooden grain bin. 

Since this was long before rural electrification, every hole needed in wood was drilled with a brace and bit, and every cut was made with a handsaw. Each piece of metal was cut with a hacksaw and holes were drilled using a wall-mounted, hand-crank drill press and lots of “squirt can oil.” All odd-length bolts were threaded with a tap-and-die set after clamping the cut rod in a vise.

First, we clamped the 4- by 8-inch wooden beams to the truck frame with homemade clamps. Next, we spaced and bolted 4- by 4-inch joists across the beams. Flat iron loops made to fit the bed stakes were bolted to the ends of the joists to hold the sideboards in place. Oak bed stakes were cut to length and trimmed with a drawing knife to fit inside the loops.

The flooring came next as 2- by 6-inch tongue-and-groove boards were nailed to the floor joists, making sure they fit the bed stakes along the sides. Finally, we built the sideboards out of tongue-and-groove car-siding and tied it all together with long wagon rods. A hinged door adorned the rear for grain removal. We didn’t worry about a grain tarp as the loaded truck wouldn’t run fast enough to blow the grain. This truck bed held about 125 bushels of grain, which was all the tires could haul.

Grain bins were mounted high up on our John Deere drag-type combines and were dumped into the trucks by gravity. Loaded trucks made a slow run to town, where they were emptied by a winch/sling device that lifted the front of the vehicle high into the air, dumping the grain into the pit. When the town elevators filled to capacity, we filled our own storage bins and piled the rest on the ground in long ricks.

As bumper crops continued, huge grain elevator complexes were built. Larger combines, trucks and better grain handling equipment were also developed. At the time, our favorite modern innovation was a Mayrath grain auger with a “pig-tail auger” at the bottom that collected grain from ground ricks with very little scooping.

Immediately after the end of World War II, small factories manufacturing steel truck beds and a variety of side-board combinations sprung up in many small towns across the Midwest. The greatest new invention at that time was the addition of hydraulic dumps to truck beds, eliminating almost all hand scooping of grain.

Scooping grain in the hot summer sun is probably my least favorite memory of the good old days. But after suffering through the Dust Bowl years without crops, no one complained. 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; e-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.