For several years in the 1920s and '30s a colorful but enigmatic character known as Tex Austin owned and operated the Forked Lightning Ranch. His story reflects the America of that era: full of individualism, idealism, and consumerism.
Who Was Tex Austin?
Austin's early years are shrouded in mystery. Almost certainly, he was born in Missouri in 1889 as Clarence Van Norstrand. At some point he changed his name to "Tex Austin" and claimed that he was born in Texas and had fought with revolutionaries in the Mexican Revolution. Whatever the uncertainties about his early years, we know that he purchased the 5,500-acre Forked Lightning Ranch along the Pecos River in 1925.
Austin adopted a flashy and distinctive personality for himself. Shortly after he arrived in New Mexico, The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper described him as "a great big chap - considerably over six feet tall, straight as an arrow, and of striking appearance," wearing a solid gold steer's-head stickpin "the size of a twenty dollar gold piece."