OSU mascot honors frontier lawman, sharpshooter, former Kansas resident – Osage County Online | Osage County News

OSU mascot honors frontier lawman, sharpshooter, former Kansas resident

“Pistol Pete” is the widely recognized Oklahoma State University mascot named after early day lawman Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton.

By Frank J. Buchman

Oklahoma State University’s “Pistol Pete” mascot is named after a real Wild West lawman cowboy. Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton was born October 26, 1860, in Hartford, Conn.

At the age of eight, Frank moved with his family to Twin Mound, Kan. Twin Mound is now a ghost town in western Douglas County. It was named for two natural mounds that rise gently from the landscape.

The famous scout, sheriff, gunman, working cowboy, passed away April 8, 1958, age 97,  at Perkins, Okla., with burial in Perkins Cemetery.

According to Frank’s youngest daughter, Elizabeth Wise, “[Frank’s] dad, my grandpa, was shot in cold blood by six former confederates. They had served during the war with the Quantrill Raiders.”

The six men, from the Campsey and the Ferber clans, rode with the vigilante Southerners. After the war, they called themselves “Regulators.”

In 1868, Mose Beaman, his father’s friend, said to Frank, “My boy, may an old man’s curse rest upon you if you do not try to avenge your father.” Beaman then taught Frank how to handle a gun, Wise said.

At the age of 15, Frank Eaton visited Fort Gibson, Okla., to learn more about shooting guns. Although too young to join the Army, Frank outshot everyone at the fort.

“He competed with the cavalry’s best marksmen, beating them every time,” Wise said.

The fort’s commanding officer, Colonel John Coppinger, gave Frank a marksmanship badge and a new nickname, “Pistol Pete.”

During his teen years, Eaton claimed that he was faster on the draw than Buffalo Bill. From his first days as a lawman, Eaton was said to “pack the fastest guns in the Indian Territory.” By the end of his career, he would allegedly have 11 notches on his gun.

At 29, Frank Eaton joined the land rush to Oklahoma Territory and settled southwest of Perkins, Okla.

“He served as sheriff and later became a blacksmith,” Wise said.

Married twice, Frank Eaton had nine children, 31 grandchildren, and lived to see three great-great-grandchildren.

Eaton carried a loaded .45 Colt, claiming, “I’d rather have a pocket full of rocks than an empty gun.”

He was also known to throw a coin in the air, draw, and shoot it before it hit the ground. A common saying in the mid-western United States, “hotter than Pete’s pistol,” traces back to Eaton’s shooting skills.

Eaton wrote two books that exemplify his life as an early day lawman. The first was an autobiography titled Veteran of the Old West: Pistol Pete, which tells a tale of his life as a deputy U.S. Marshal and cowboy.

His second book, which was published 30 years after his death, is titled Campfire Stories: Remembrances of a Cowboy Legend. It is a collection of yarns and recollections that Eaton told visitors who came to sit on his front porch in Perkins.

After seeing Eaton ride a horse in the 1923 Armistice Day Parade in Stillwater, Okla., university students decided that “Pistol Pete” would be a suitable school mascot. Previously the college had been known as the “Princeton of the Prairie” with a tiger mascot and colors of orange and black.

Many at the school were unhappy with the “Tigers” mascot. They felt “Pistol Pete,” symbolic of the American Old West and Oklahoma’s land run roots, better represented the college.

“Cowboys” and “Aggies” were used interchangeably until the school became Oklahoma State University in 1957, and “Cowboys” became the sole nickname. However, it was not until 1958 that “Pistol Pete” was adopted as the school’s mascot. The familiar caricature of “Pistol Pete” was officially sanctioned in 1984 by the university as a licensed symbol.

In more recent years, the University of Wyoming and New Mexico State University began using variations of OSU’s artwork as logos for their schools.

To this day, Pistol Pete’s likeness is a visible reminder of the Old West to literally millions of people yearly as a symbol of colleges whose mascots pay homage to the cowboy.

From 1950 through 1956, Eaton wrote a weekly column for The Perkins Journal. It was titled “Truthful Pete Says,” and later “Pistol Pete Says.”

The stories consisted of his philosophy of life, humorous incidents, and recollections of Frontier Days. He often told of his experiences as a member of The Journal staff, setting type by hand and cranking the old hand press.

Real film footage of Deputy Frank Eaton shows a picnic gathering of former lawmen at his home in Perkins, not far from Stillwater.

On March 15, 1997, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame posthumously honored Eaton with the Director’s Award.

Elizabeth Wise, together with Oklahoma State University’s James Halligan, accepted the award for Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton.

On April 9, 2022, Eaton was posthumously inducted by the National Cowboy Western Heritage Center and Museum in Oklahoma City into the Hall of Great Westerners.

The award was accepted by three of Eaton’s grandchildren, Elizabeth Wise’s children, William Wise, Dinah Wagner, and Harvey Wise. Sharing the stage with them were 27 former Oklahoma State University Pistol Pete mascots.

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