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In the 1970s the expense of farm labor and cotton trailers reached unbearable levels. This expense had such an impact on the cotton industry that Cotton Incorporated began a project to resolve the problem. With help from Texas A&M and Texas Tech University, they designed a machine called a rick compactor. This machine allowed a farmer to dump his harvested cotton within three walls, right on the ground. The machine was attached to a farm tractor and there was a compactor at the back that would press the dumped cotton with enough force that it would retain its compacted shape. This machine was dragged along the ground to create an empty space at the front end where additional cotton could be dumped. As the machine was pulled forward, the compactor at the back would continually pack the loose cotton as it passed out of the back of the machine. Thus the word “rick” was coined because a “rick” of cotton could be made that was a hundred feet or more long. This took pressure Rickeroff gins to quickly empty a farmer’s trailers so he could continue harvesting. It helped with the labor problem because this machine required only one man to operate. However, a bottleneck quickly developed because retrieving the cotton from the ricks when the trailers became available was not an efficient process. The expense of retrieval equipment was placed on the gins and the cotton was still slowly transported to the gin in trailers. The handling and movement of the retrieval equipment was a slow and expensive process. In addition, the compaction was not sufficient for the cotton to withstand some of the strong winter winds, which resulted in an unacceptable amount of cotton loss.
The idea of making a single rick with a standard size evolved from this initial Module Builderprogram resulting in the development of the module builder. Initially these modules were 24 Ft. long and built on aluminum pallets that were pulled onto a tilted trailer. This proved cumbersome, but the ability to haul large volumes of cotton to the gin at any time at highway speeds made the program somewhat a success.
Then one day Barry Reynolds was driving through West Texas and saw a machine that was backing underModule Truck a load of hay in the field. The hay was just sitting on the ground and the tilted bed of the truck just rolled under the hay. Barry Reynolds immediately envisioned this idea as the solution to the handling problem of the cotton modules. Through several trial and error prototypes, he developed the cotton module truck that is in existence today.
Even Reynolds did not realize the far reaching effect that this truck would have on the entire cotton industry. With the advent of the module truck, ten to fifteen bales of unprocessed cotton could be loaded on a truck in a matter of minutes and taken to the gin yard at highway speeds. A gin could stockpile an enormous amount of cotton modules and therefore never be concerned about running out of cotton to gin. This opened the door for the innovation of higher speed ginning equipment that until now could serve no purpose because the volume of cotton brought to a gin could not sustain the higher speeds and the gins would run out of cotton. Because of the cotton module truck, the United States has the most high tech ginning system and handling system in the world. It will be interesting to see where we go from here!