- Tex Austin
John Van "Tex" Austin (1886 —
26 October 1938U.P.I. (26 October 1938) "Death Cancels Plans King of Rodeo Shows" "Kokomo Tribune" p. 2, col. 8] ) was an American rodeo promoter, known as the "King of the Rodeo" [Staff (29 December 1928) "“King of the Rodeo” Now showing at Gem" "The Salt Lake Tribune" p. 15, col. 2] or "Daddy of the Rodeo" because of his efforts to popularize the rodeo outside of its core American West demographic.
He owned the Forked Lightning Ranch in New Mexico. From 1925 to 1929 he was promoter, manager and director of the "Chicago Roundup".
Austin's birth name in
St. Louis, Missouriwas Clarence Van Nostrand. In 1908 he left St. Louis and adopted a new persona changing his name (and usually was called Tex Austin) and saying that he was raised on a cattle ranch in Victoria, Texas. [ [http://www.nps.gov/peco/historyculture/forked-lightning-ranch.htm Forked Lightning Ranch - nps.gov - Retrieved February 18, 2008] ] He worked at the L.F.D. Ranch in Roswell, New Mexicoand then at a ranch at Las Vegas, New Mexico.
He claimed to have worked for Don Luis Terrazas, the
Chihuahuacattle baron of the Creel-Terrazas Family. In 1910 he was a captain under Francisco Villain Madero's revolutionary forces against Diaz. [Staff ( 19 September1936) "Austin Given Famous Mint Special Recipe" "Santa Fe New Mexican" p. 1, col. 1]
His first produced rodeo was in
El Paso, Texas. In 1918 in Wichita, Kansashe produced the first indoor rodeo. (This fact is disputed. The Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show, held in Fort Worth in February, 1918, also claims to be the first indoor rodeo.)
In 1920s Austin put together a rodeo and played in
Chicago Stadium, New York's Madison Square Garden(1922), and in Hollywood. [Staff (28 June 1935) "Cowboy Title To Be Sought For in August" "The Arcadia Tribune" p. 2, col. 2] [Staff (25 July 1935) "“They've All Been Throwed,” Says Veteran Rider of 'Outlaw' Broncs" "Galveston Daily News" p. 9, col. 1]
He even took his rodeo to the newly opened Wembley Stadium in
London, in 1924.. [This rodeo was organized by Charles Cochran, and managed by Tex Austin. It ran from 14 Juneto 5 July1924 and was the First International Rodeo. [http://www.nationalcowboymuseum.org/research/r_a_ashb.html "Mrs. Grant E. Ashby Rodeo Collection 1924-1983" National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum] ] Austin took to Britain such rodeo stars as: Ike Rude, Manerd Gayler, Dave Campbell and Rube Roberts. [Porter, Willard H. (1975) "A Visit with Ike Rude" "Roping and Riding: Fast Horses and Short Ropes" A.S. Barnes, Cranbury, New Jersey, p. 39 ISBN 0-498-01549-1] The rodeo was challenged by animal rights activists attempting to get a court order barring the rodeo on the basis of animal cruelty. [cite news
title=ASKS PREMIER TO STOP RODEO STEER ROPING; British Society Appeals 'in Name of Humanity' Against Contest of American Cowboys.
New York Times
accessdate=2008-08-10] The Wembly rodeo, in which Austin lost $20,000, [cite news
title=COCHRAN A BANKRUPT; SPORTS VENTURES FAIL; Troubles of 'King of English Showmen' Included Dempsey-Carpentier Fight and Rodeo.
New York Times
accessdate=2008-08-10] was to cause Parliament to pass the
Protection of Animals Act 1934[ [http://www.veggieglobal.com/protection-of-animals-act-uk.htm#21 "Protection of Animals Act 1934" Chapter 21 Geo. 5, 17 May 1934] amending the "Protection of Animals Act 1911", United Kingdom] which made it an offense to rope an untrained animal or to ride one using a cruel appliance such as a strap cinched tight around its genitals. [ [http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1972/3/1972_3_72_print.shtml Carson, Gerald (April 1972) "The Late, Late Frontier" "American Heritage (Magazine)" 23(3): p.75] ] Tex Austin returned to London with his rodeo in 1934 and they performed before the king and queen. Bronc riders including Herman Linder, Frank Sharp and Pete Knightrode in the 1934 London rodeo; the featured bucking horse of the show was the legendary Midnight. [The National Sporting Club Ltd., under the direction of Tex Austin, presented the 1934 London rodeo held at White City, London, 9 Juneto 6 July1934. [http://www.nationalcowboymuseum.org/research/r_a_ashb.html "Mrs. Grant E. Ashby Rodeo Collection 1924-1983" National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum] ]
In the early 1920s he was involved with the
Vermejo Park Ranchguest ranch.
In 1925 he bought land in the old 5,500 acres Pecos Pueblo Grant for a
guest ranchcalled Forked Lightning Ranch. The main ranch house was one of the first works of John Gaw Meem. The ranch is now part of the Pecos National Historic Park. Austin would hold cattle drivesbetween the ranch and Las Vegas, New Mexicorecruiting city folk back east to participate in the drives. [ [http://www.nps.gov/peco/historyculture/forked-lightning-ranch.htm Forked Lightning Ranch - nps.gov - Retrieved February 18, 2008] ] The ranch was later owned by Buddy Folgeson and the actress Greer Garson.
After losing the ranch in the
Great DepressionAustin retired to Santa Fe with his wife Mary Lou McGuire of Albuquerque. They opened a restaurant in Santa Fe called "Tex Austin's Los Rancheros." [Staff (28 August 1936) "From Rodeos to Restaurants; Tex Austin Takes Up New Role" "Santa Fe New Mexican" p. 2, col. 4]
He committed suicide in 1938 a few weeks after getting diagnosis that he was going blind. He died of
carbon monoxideinhalation while he was in his car at his home. Photographs of his rodeo days were found stacked on the couch of his home. [ [http://newspaperarchive.com/PdfViewerTags.aspx?
He was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1976.
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