I’ve been through Pecos, New Mexico before but didn’t think to stop and see the marvelous Pecos National Historic Park. Imagine, this out of the way area just east of Santa Fe was once a major trade crossroads for Pueblo people, nomadic Apaches and eventually, the Spanish.
Our destination, this winter day, was the ranch home where actress Greer Garson once lived. It was hard to imagine that such an elegant, glamorous woman would find a rather simple ranch home on the top of a rise, her favorite place to be. But she loved the Forked Lightning Ranch.
Visiting the Forked Lightning Ranch
To visit the Forked Lightning Ranch and the home that was once Greer Garson’s you need to schedule yourself for a tour.
As we drove toward the park we saw pink adobe and blue wood gates with a lightning sign on them… we were on Forked Lightning property. We arrived for our tour, meeting at the Pecos National Historic Park Visitors Center. The Visitors Center was an attraction in itself. The architecture was truly southwestern and the beauty of the columns and huge ceiling vigas was noteworthy. As we waited for our volunteer tour guide, we enjoyed the great selection of books they sell there and went through the museum, learning much more about the importance of the area.
Tours are small. We all fit in to the van and the volunteer took us up the highway to the ranch. On the way, we stopped at an old trading post and marveled at the beauty of the land as we drove on ranch property, across a bridge and up to the pink adobe (more orange, after being repainted) home.
The ranch, and the home on the hilltop had gone through several hands. The original owner of the home was “Tex Austin,” a rodeo producer who engaged architect John Gaw Meem to design the home. Tex was known as a promoter of rodeos far and wide. He bought parcels of land on the old Pecos Pueblo land grant and named the ranch, “Forked Lightning Ranch.”
Tex, always the promoter, made the ranch into a guest ranch. The guest rooms surrounded a central courtyard. He could accommodate up to 18 guests. The ranch, also a working cattle ranch, only operated for seven years, the last guests leaving in 1933. As things go with promoters and “big talkers,” Tex lost the ranch.
His special touch, the large steer head sculpture mounted on the outside of the chimney remains today.
Buddy Fogelson and Greer Garson
In 1941, the ranch was sold to E.E. “Buddy” Fogelson, a Texas oil man and rancher. He expanded the ranch’s holdings and used the house as his summer home. He married actress Greer Garson in 1949 and in her grand movie-star style, she developed the rather simple ranch house into a gracious home suitable for entertaining well-known guests. While we toured the home, we saw photographs of Miss Garson entertaining political figures of the day as well as other movie stars.
What You Will See
We were surprised that the home was rather modest. It is an adobe home originally painted in “Greer Garson Pink,” but now looking more orange. If you want to see the color Miss Garson selected, look on the fence posts as you drive into the ranch.
You can see the 50’s style furniture, suitable for a ranch home, but very indicative of the style of the day. You can see a fully furnished guestroom showing how the couple chose local artisans to craft the furniture and tinwork in the home.
Enter Greer Garson’s bedroom (Buddy’s is adjoining) and you can get a sense of the countryside views and life at the ranch. While her furniture is not there, I noticed the 50’s color bathroom fixtures and large soaking tub in the bathroom.
We saw the kitchen with small restaurant style appliances, a former dining room and, my favorite, the living room. Just as you enter, you’ll see a huge fireplace with a painting of Buddy’s prize Santa Gertrudis bull above the mantel. Original furniture surrounds the fireplace area.
Although the home is not restored to the grandeur which once was, visitors can get a good idea of what life must have been like as Greer Garson entertained prominent guests in the grassy central courtyard seated at patio tables with umbrellas. You can also better understand why she and her husband loved the home. From the property you can enjoy views of the Pecos River, and look out over the valley and mountains beyond.
More Information on the Tour and How to Schedule
Forked Lightning Ranch House Tour – You’ll begin at Kozlowski’s Santa Fe Trail stage stop and then see the bluff overlooking the confluence of the Glorieta Creek and Pecos River where Tex Austin, “Daddy of the Rodeo,” hired architect John Gaw Meem to build a house. Completed in 1926, this structure later became the summer home of Pecos National Historical Park benefactors E.E. “Buddy” Fogelson and his wife, Academy Award-winning actress Greer Garson.
To schedule regular guided tours, please request a reservation at the Visitor Center or call 505-757-7241. Space is limited to 9 people on all van tours, so call for reservations in advance of the date you seek. There are no ‘walk-in’ spots saved on guided van tours. Please note that there is a $2.00 per person tour fee for van tours in addition to the $3.00 entrance fee.
Getting to the Pecos National Historical Park
Pecos National Historical Park is 25 miles east of Santa Fe, New Mexico off of Interstate 25. Visitors travelling north on I-25: take exit 299 on to HWY 50 to Pecos village and south two miles on State Road 63. Those travelling south on I-25: take exit 307 and proceed four miles north to the Park on State Road 63.
Life of Greer Garson
Video: Interview with Greer Garson from the Forked Lightning Ranch
Purchase: A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson
Pecos National Historic Park
Article and Slide Show: Visiting Pecos National Historical Park