PO Box 418
Pecos, New Mexico 87552
Tours and Special Use Permits
When 20-year-old Clarence Van
Nostrand left home in 1908, he reinvented
himself for a life of adventure. He changed his
name to John Van Austin but everyone knew him as
"Tex" Austin. Although born into a strict
St. Louis household, he claimed to have been born
and raised on a cattle ranch in Victoria,
After working on New Mexico
and Texas ranches and briefly joining the Mexican Revolution, Tex started
producing rodeos. From his first rodeo in El Paso in 1917 to
his last in London, England, in 1934, Tex was
known for his generosi�ty and showmanship.
When he produced the first
Madison square Garden Rodeo in 1922, the prize money
was a record $25,000. Tex had other
"firsts" -- first recorded indoor rodeo in
Wichita, Kansas (1918); first rodeo ever held in
Chicago Stadium (1926); and the first contest rodeo
to go over�seas. Some 114,000 people attended his
1924 rodeo in London's Wembley Stadium.
Everyone agreed that Tex was
"possessed of tremendous charm and bluff"
and "spent his last dollar like it was a leaf
and he owned the forest." Tall and lanky, Tex
was not considered a decent working cowhand by his
cowboys, but "he did learn to wear a big hat
and to sit his saddle as if born to the
In 1925, Tex bought up parcels
of land on the old Pecos Pueblo Grant and called his
5,500 acre holdings The Forked Lightning Ranch. The
remains of Kozlowski's Stage Stop and Tavern on the
Santa Fe Trail (1858-1880) became part of his new
holdings, which Tex converted into ranch
headquarters and a trading post. He hired
architect John Gaw Meem to design and build the main
ranch house on a bluff above the Pecos River. (The
assignment was one of Meem's first. He later became
famous throughout the Southwest for his "Pueblo
All rooms in the rectangular
house faced a grassy patio. Its defining touch was a
huge, specially sculpted steer head mounted
out�side on the chimney. Tex's advertising touted
it as "the most complete, mod�ern and
comfortable ranch house in the West. The life of the
romantic West is at its doors."
"Way out west an' a
Little Bit South"
Tex hoped for a share of the
growing East Coast tourist market to New Mexico.
The ranch, after all, was less than two days by
train from Chicago: "Thirty four hours, and
you're out where the West is and will be for some
time." Train travelers got off at Rowe just a
few miles down the road.
For $125 a week, 18 guests
sharing nine bedrooms received "all proper
service...to insure the comfort and friendly
atmosphere of a country home...Feed and
how!...served ranch style...in big heaping dishes.
Pitch till you win and no one keeps track of the
helpings!" "Pack and chuck wagon trips to
the high peaks" were a highlight of many
The Forked Lightning was a
working cattle ranch too, reputed to run sever�al
thousand head of cattle on 100,000 acres of leased
grazing land in the valley. One story had Tex
tak�ing the train to Chicago,
finding a bar, and then complaining to pa�trons
that he had all this cattle to go to Las Vegas, New
Mexico, for loading on the train and no one to do
He found "dudes" who
volunteered to take the trip to the Forked Lightning
at their own expense just for the chance to be on a
cattle drive. After the animals were at Las Vegas,
Tex took the train back to Chicago and complained
about all the animals he had at Las Vegas that he
needed to get to his ranch!
The ranch only operated for
seven years; the last guests left in May 1933. Tex
had heavily mortgaged the ranch and couldn't pay
the debt. A year later, his attempt to produce
another London rodeo fell on hard times -- British
animal rights groups tried to stop the show on the
grounds that steer-wrestling was cruel.
Though they failed, Tex lost
over $20,000. After losing the ranch, Tex moved to
Santa Fe and opened the Los Rancheros Restaurant
near the Plaza. In October 1938 Tex committed
suicide. Rumor at the time was he had been told he
was going blind. Tex Austin, the "Daddy of
Rodeo," was named to the National Cowboy Hall
of Fame in 1976.
A New Breed
In 1936, W. C. Currier bought
the Forked Lightning Ranch, and five years later
sold it to E. E. "Buddy" Fogelson, a
Dallas oil man and rancher. Over the next 25
years, Mr. Fogelson purchased land to the south
expanding the ranch to 13,000 acres.
The Forked Lightning became a small cattle ranch and Tex's ranch house
the Fogelson summer home. After Mr. Fogelson married
the actress Greer Garson in 1949, the ranch house
became a center for gracious entertaining.
Active in ranch life, Mrs.
Fogelson unsuccessfully tried to raise white
Shorthorns imported from her native Scotland. While
attending a cattle auction in 1958, Mr. Fogelson
impetuously pur�chased a purebred Santa Gertrudis
bull named "Gee Gee" which, with three
heifers pur�chased at the same auction, became the
foundation for the Forked Lightning Santa Gertrudis
Santa Gertrudis, the first
officially recognized American breed of cattle, was
developed on the famous King Ranch in Texas. A cross
be�tween a Brahma and Shorthorn, the breed resulted
from an effort to produce good beef animals
better suited to the heat, humidi�ty, and range
conditions of South Texas.
When Mr. Fogelson brought
Santa Gertrudis to the Forked Light�ning it was the
first time the breed was wintered at high
alti�tude. A tireless promoter of the breed,
Mr. Fogelson was the first to exhibit Santa
Gertrudis at the New Mexico State Fair in 1961.
When Mr. Fogelson died in
1987, the Forked Lightning was divided along the old
southern boundary line of Tex's original Forked
Lightning. Greer Garson Fogelson received the
"old" Forked Lightning Ranch and Mr.
Fogelson's son inher�ited the southern
In January 1991, Mrs. Fogelson
sold the Forked Lightning to The Conservation Fund
which donated it to the National Park Service to
be�come part of Pecos National Historical Park.
The ranch house has remained
rela�tively unchanged. Tex's Forked Lightning brand
still marks the original fixtures in the living and
dining rooms and the steer head still stares down
the Pecos. It is not difficult to imagine the famous and not so famous
gathered around the
huge fireplace, sipping drinks on the wide front
porch, or enjoying the sun on the patio - all
basking in the warm atmosphere that welcomed many
guests for more than 60 years.
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