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Stomping Wool Into Sacks

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

As sheep shearing season begins, my mind wanders back to when I was 11 or 12 years old, and I used to get paid for “stomping” – or as some folks called it, “tromping” – wool into eight-feet long sacks weighing around 500 pounds each when full of freshly sheared fleeces.

During World War II when wool was needed to clothe our soldiers, my dad, an uncle and several Saratoga men put together a sheep shearing crew. The crew would leave town in late March or early April, start shearing in Ogden, Utah and work their way across southern Wyoming, quitting in Cheyenne.

When the shearers arrived at Daley, a little town west of Rawlins, several of us kids would join the crew as stompers, getting 25 cents a sack. We would also do this at Vivion’s sheep shearing shed at Walcott Junction on old Highway 30 between Rawlins and Elk Mountain, and again at Dana, close to Hanna.

One of us would be in the sack stomping, while a couple of others were throwing fleeces into the sack. 

When the wool was clean it wasn’t a bad job, but there was always a sack containing tags, which were full of sheep pellets, dirt, sagebrush, grease, ticks and unidentified matter. Usually, we would gang up on one kid, throw him in the eight-feet high sack and start pelting him with tags, which he had to keep stomping in order to get out.

Wyoming Trails and Tales noted, to fill sacks with wool, a sack would be suspended from a metal ring supported by the platform. After each sheep is sheared, the fleece would be tied into a ball by the shearer and tossed into the sack in which a wool tromper would be standing. 

It was his job to pack the wool down into the sack with his feet, working from the outside of the sack. He would gradually work his way up. When the sack was full, it would be sewn shut with twine and a large needle.

At Walcott, sacks were stacked on a platform along the railroad tracks and then loaded into boxcars for shipment to the woolen mills. In the early 1900s, a special train with 600,000 pounds of wool was shipped by the Cosgriff Brothers from Fort Steele to Brown and Adams in Boston, Mass. 

Back in 2008, Bill Ward and I co-organized a tour, sponsored by the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, of the shearing barn and pens at Walcott Junction as well as the adjoining TA Ranch. 

It was during this tour, former Roundup Managing Editor Jennifer Womack talked me into writing the Postcard from the Past column, and Publisher Dennis Sun even agreed to pay me for it – not much, but enough for a beer or two. 

This was more than 14 years ago, and I’m still “stomping stories,” some of which are even true.

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