Tribute to the feed sack

| February 2003

The feed sack, often called a tow sack or gunny sack, ranks right up there with baling wire and duct tape as one of the things I would most hate to do without in my early ranching days.

Recently, I ran across a forgotten bundle of the jute-made sacks while cleaning out the ranch 'cake' or feed house, constructed from a railroad boxcar some-time back in the 1920s.

In the old days, before the switch to paper sacks and the increased use of bulk feed storage, live-stock feed always came packed in 100-pound feed sacks.

Down through the years, cowboys and ranch owners groaned at the sound of an air horn announcing the arrival of a semi-truck loaded with 'cake' or other feeds. Truck drivers were notorious for waiting until late in the evening to deliver, hoping to catch someone home to help them unload the feed. Having to help with such a chore after a hard day's work on the range made for many a sore back among cowboys.

Empty feed sacks were tough, light-weight and efficient, plus they could be recycled. If sorted for holes, counted into bundles of 25 or 50, stacked with tops together and tied with two baling wire bands for handles, they were worth money to the 'sack man.' He came around twice a year, just before Christmas and in late spring, buying back sacks for the feed mill.

Tight ranchers used the sack money to help pay feed bills, others let the cow-boys have it as a bonus for good work. The really smart ones turned it over to the women of the family. This kept everyone happy and helped ensure extra homemade pies and hot rolls through-out the year.