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How Frank Eaton's ride changed OSU

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Pistol Pete

Inspired by Frank Eaton, the old Pistol Pete mascot head was made out of paper mache

The old Butterfield Stagecoach zoomed down Lewis Field at halftime.

It was not quite as classic as Frank Eaton vengefully riding solo on a horse – but hey, times were changing. And so was Eaton, the real life inspiration for the Pistol Pete mascot, who, at 97 years old, rode shotgun in this carriage at the 1957 OSU Homecoming game. Eaton received a roaring applause in front of about 25,000 fans.

OSU came into the game with a 3-1-1 record and beat Texas Tech 13-0 that day, but Eaton’s ride stole the show – and applied further pressure for the school to pick up an official mascot. In the gameday edition of The Daily O’Collegian, an editorial titled “Student Opinion Asked On Mascot,” which called for a Cowboy on a stagecoach to be the representative of the school. 

“We have heard of no other university or college with such a unique mascot,” the article read.

The students, who unofficially claimed Eaton as their mascot for years, were ready for it to become official. This is in large part thanks to Eaton’s life story. At 8-years-old, Eaton witnessed his father killed by six men. As he grew older, killed five of those men and attended the sixth man’s funeral.

The team’s nickname was “Cowboys” and “Aggies” interchangeably for years, so Eaton was thought to embody this.

“We already have the colorful title ‘Cowboy,’” the article read. “Why not make the most of it in providing a tangible representation of it.”

One month after the halftime ride, an article titled “Students May Submit Proposals For Mascot” ran on The Daily O'Collegian front page, outlining that the overwhelming majority of students wanted Eaton, or someone dressed as Eaton, to be the mascot.

Eaton died less than a year after this game, but his “Pistol Pete” likeness was officially named OSU’s mascot in 1958. That year, the Pistol Pete mascot made its first debut, with Charley Lester being the first to take the mantle. While he was not alive to comment on the official mascot naming, he was indifferent to OSU changing their name from “Oklahoma A&M.”

“I like old A&M as much as anything, but they’re runnin’ it. I ain’t,” Eaton told The O’Colly in 1957.”

Eaton loved OSU, even stating that “they’re awfully good to me there” in 1957. While a recent nationwide survey ranked him as the worst mascot in college, he was undeniably an authentic cowboy, living long enough to comment on his disdain for western movies.

“Cowboy movies are fakes,” Eaton said. “The fellers in em shoot 10 or 12 times without stopping to reload their gun. And after they’re done shooting, ain’t nobody was on the floor.”