Legendary Pistol Pete mascot a familiar face in the Ferguson College of Agriculture
Monday, October 23, 2023
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A clear testament to a spirited university is a mascot recognized around the world — and that’s just what Oklahoma State University has. As OSU begins another celebration of America’s Greatest Homecoming, it honors 100 years of its beloved mascot, Pistol Pete.
“The Year of the Cowboy” was selected as the 2023 homecoming theme in honor of Frank "Pistol Pete" Eaton’s legacy. Eaton is the inspiration behind the Pete persona that is known across the world by fans, alumni, students and others. Eaton became associated with the university in 1923, but after his death in 1958, the mascot of Pistol Pete became a tradition following the initial portrayal by Charles Lester in 1958.
While Petes of years past come from academic programs and colleges across campus, the Ferguson College of Agriculture is home to several alumni who have donned the Pete head. Of the 96 Petes to date, 22 have been awarded agricultural degrees with Petes No. 95 and 96 currently working toward their degrees.
The 36-pound mascot head aside, representing OSU as a nationally recognized mascot and being a full-time student is not easy. Petes are expected to balance coursework and involvement in organizations across campus with several weekly appearances, including game days, university events, weddings, corporate events and more. Ferguson faculty and staff support the Petes and help them succeed in both their professional and personal lives.
Cale Walker, who served from 2006-07 as Pete No. 72, is grateful for the encouragement he received from faculty and staff during his time. While in college, Walker also served on the college’s student council, completing one term as president.
“The faculty were very supportive during my time as Pete,” said Walker, who graduated in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural leadership. “The [Ferguson College of Agriculture] took a lot of pride in having one of their own be Pete, and over time, we have all grown to expect the college to be well represented each year.”
Matt Ralls is a 1998 environmental science graduate. He served as Pete No. 56 from 1996-98 and recalled an experience similar to Walker’s.
“The professors were a standout part of my journey, each bringing their unique personality
which made the learning environment not only educational but also engaging,” Ralls
said. “They were incredibly encouraging and supportive, always striving to bring out
the best in their students."
When Ralls saw an advertisement in the newspaper promoting tryouts, he decided to attend. The night before, he read a book about Eaton to get a better understanding of his life and the mascot’s role.
“When I had the opportunity to meet the former Petes during the interview process, I learned being Pistol Pete was more than just funny skits and taking pictures,” Ralls said. “It was about the legacy of Frank Eaton and the traditions and values of the Oklahoma State community.”
In addition to portraying Pete, Ralls served as vice president of the college's student council and spent his time involved in many other on-campus organizations such as the Environmental Science Club and Freshman Representative Council. However, he kept his two years as the mascot a secret from everyone but a few individuals close to him.
Ralls, an All-American Mascot pick in 1997, said serving as Pete is not just an honor to those who portray him, but also a privilege.
“I had the unique opportunity to represent my school, unite the student body and create lasting memories with the proud alumni of Oklahoma State, all while getting a unique view that very few see — through the eyes of Pistol Pete,” Ralls said.
Caden Schaufele is currently Pete No. 96 while working toward a degree in agribusiness with a concentration in pre-law.
“The phrase ‘Ferguson Family’ is 100% true. They really do care about you here and
they’ve been willing and open to work with my schedule,” Schaufele said. “No matter the circumstance or schedule, growth and success are taught, learned and
encouraged in the Ferguson college."
Growing up around OSU and Ferguson, Schaufele saw a welcoming college family that practiced the Cowboy Code.
“I came to realize in four years that the Ferguson college is something special, and it’s set apart from other colleges in several aspects,” Schaufele said.
To those chosen to portray Pete, it's more than putting on the head and attending events.
“It’s hard for me to put into words what it meant to be the face of over 250,000 students, alumni, fans and friends,” said Walker, who was selected as an All-American and Most Collegiate Mascot. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I will always share the stories with my children, who think it’s the coolest thing in the world that their dad was Pete.”
Schaufele and Pete No. 95 — Bryce Coon, an agricultural systems technology major — are the newest members of the mascot fraternity, a group exclusive to Pete alumni, following their initiation in September.
“Being a student in the Ferguson college and being Pistol Pete have helped make my time in college the most meaningful and memorable experience. These two things have taught me more about life than I could ever imagine and the experiences that come with being a Ferguson college student are second to none,” Coon said.
Schaufele is proud to represent the university — something he will get to do for the rest of his life as a Pete.
“Pete is just one of the many faces I see when I think of OSU. Whether people know who I am or not, they know Pete, and I think that’s really cool,” Schaufele said. “I get to serve in that capacity for a university I grew up with and want to continue to support no matter what.”
An enhanced sense of OSU spirit, paired with connections, support, community and family are fundamental pieces that make Ferguson unique. Those pieces remain for so many previous Petes who have ventured on to new phases of life after OSU.
“Many years later, those connections I made in the Ferguson college and as Pete are still guiding and supporting me as a professional,” Walker said. “Throughout my seasons of life, friends from the Ferguson college have been and will continue to be an integral part of my family and me.”
The 2023 homecoming celebration is Oct. 22-28. The Ferguson College of Agriculture Homecoming reception is scheduled for 3 to 5 p.m., Friday, Oct. 27, at the Charles and Linda Cline Equine Teaching Facility.
Ferguson College of Agriculture Pistol Pete Alumni
- No. 1: Charles Lester (1958-59) — General Agriculture (Master of Agriculture)
- No. 3: Curtis Manley (1960-61) — Entomology
- No. 12: Mitch Dobson (1966-67) — Animal Science
- No. 17: William Ransdell (1970-72) — Agricultural Economics
- No. 22: Joe Elsener (1973-74) — Agricultural Economics
- No. 25: Joe Semtner (1975-76) — Animal Science
- No. 30: Dwain Gibson (1978-79) — Animal Science
- No. 42: Jack Franks (1987-88) — Animal Science
- No. 56: Matt Ralls (1996-98) — Environmental Science
- No. 57: Brock Allen (1997-98) — Agribusiness
- No. 58: Rhett Minson (1998-2000) — Animal Science
- No. 61: Wes Magill (2000-01) — Animal Science
- No. 68: Jared Wiley (2003-05) — Agricultural Communications
- No. 70: Eric Stroud (2005-06) — Agribusiness
- No. 72: Cale Walker (2006-07) — Agricultural Leadership
- No. 78: Wyatt Swinford (2010-11) — Agribusiness
- No. 83: Landon Stallings (2013-15) — Animal Science
- No. 88: Steven Vekony (2017-19) — Animal Science
- No. 89: Kevin Osborn (2018-20) — Agricultural Education
- No. 90: Hunter Thomas (2019-20) — Agribusiness
- No. 93: Traber Smithson (2022-23) — Agribusiness
- No. 94: Cooper Price (2022-23) — Biosystems Engineering
- No. 95: Bryce Coon (2023-24) — Agricultural Systems Technology
- No. 96: Caden Schaufele (2023-24) — Agribusiness