Pistol Pete wood carving sprouts up

Pistol Pete Carving

Clayton Coss's carving of Pistol Pete sits outside of the OSU Sigma Alpha Epsilon house. 

Although a part of history couldn't stand forever, an artistic piece has replaced it.

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity of Oklahoma State University had artwork constructed on its front lawn. The carving of Pistol Pete from the trunk of an old tree reached completion Aug. 27.

The tree standing in front of the house started to decay last summer. Chris Busby, a member of the SAE Alumni Board, said the board finally decided to take the tree down because a limb fell from it, creating a hazard for the community.

The fraternity commissioned Clayton Coss of Clayton Coss Chainsaw Carvings for the art. The project took Coss about five days to complete, including the cutting of the tree and the carving of the stump.

SAE Alumni Board member Dick Ford had seen Coss' carvings across Tulsa and created the idea for the Pistol Pete carving. 

The board initially didn’t want to remove the tree because it had sentimental value to the fraternity. Instead of leaving a scar on the property, Ford suggested that Coss come to the SAE house and carve the tree into the likeness of Pistol Pete. 

Although Coss had carved the OSU mascot several times, it was his first visit to Stillwater. 

“I was very interested in doing the carving,” Coss said. “I’ve carved Pistol Pete many times but never been in the heart of Pistol Pete country.”

One of the Petes he carved is a smaller one with a golf club in hand at the Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater.

While cutting down and carving the tree, he took a look at the rings of the wood growth to see how old the tree was. Coss said what he found surprised him.

“It surprised me that it wasn’t older than what it was,” Coss said. "The tree is somewhere around 80 years old. It grew very fast, so a tree that size easily could have been over 100 years old.”

When Ford suggested the carving, the rest of the board members liked the idea, but didn’t think it would be a good use of the renovation funds. Busby posted in the SAE alumni Facebook group that the tree needed to be removed from the premise and because of inadequate funds, SAE couldn’t have the carving done.

Nathan Greer, an SAE alumnus, saved the project when he reached out to Busby to see if he could start a GoFundMe to raise money for the carving. Generous donations from multiple SAE alumni and Little Sisters of Minerva poured in. Greer raised more than $8,000 in three days. 

Busby and the board had no choice but to go ahead with the plan. 

“We had to (carve) the tree at that point,” Busby said.