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.

| October 2012

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.