Several generations of my family have grown cotton in south Texas. Until about 50 years ago cotton was picked from the field and loaded into cotton wagons which were then towed to the cotton gin (the word gin evolved from “engine” - just lazy English language
). It was common at that time to see long lines and rows of wagons parked at the gin waiting to be processed. The gin used a vacuum system to suck “seed cotton” out of the wagon.
Then some enterprising guy invented the cotton module. Modules can be rectangular, and look like a huge loaf of bread, or round like a bale of hay. A rectangular module is about 32 feet long (a half-module is 16 ft). These are typically covered with a plastic tarp and left at the edge of the field until the gin is ready for them. The smaller round modules, also wrapped in plastic are placed in rows at the edge of the field. That pretty much eliminated the cotton wagon. My uncle used to have a bunch of cotton wagons parked behind his barn - not sure what happened to those - I’ll have to ask.
Now, for clarification none of these are cotton “bales”. They’re commonly called modules. The cotton “bale” is what comes out of the gin after the gin removes the seed, sticks, leaves, etc from the cotton. A ginned cotton bale is a compressed rectangular bundle weighing about 500 pounds. Typically a cotton buyer would use a cotton sampler knife at this stage to evaluate the quality and determine suitability for various uses, and price.
Today my cousin’s husband and their son farm cotton and grain sorghum, her brother runs the local gin, and another cousin owns and operates a welding and fabrication shop that makes replacement parts to keep the area gins operating.
That’s about the sum total of my knowledge and memories. Hope that helps answer your questions.
You can search “cotton gin”, cotton processing, etc on line if you’re interested in learning more. Here’s one link https://www.cotton.org/pubs/cottoncount ... market.cfm