Pistol Pete Brotherhood honors those who ‘hung up their spurs’
Monday, October 31, 2022
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The spurs clink as the man walks out on the center of the field in Boone Pickens Stadium.
The smoke fills the air as he fires off his shotgun.
Everyone knows that it’s time to yell “O-S-U Cowboys.”
Modeled after one of America’s greatest cowboys, Frank Eaton, Oklahoma State University mascot Pistol Pete has been the ultimate brand ambassador for the institution since 1958, said Scott Petty, Pistol Pete No. 40.
Due to his marksmanship during Army training, Eaton earned the nickname Pistol Pete from a Colonel while stationed at Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. But it was in 1923 when “Pistol Pete” Eaton caught the attention of Oklahoma A&M students while riding his horse in the Armistice Day parade, telling stories and showing off his gunslinging skills, Petty said.
Through his appearances, administration and students realized Eaton embodied the characteristics of the student body and the American Old West. With the blessing of his family, the image and legacy of Eaton lives on today.
On Oct. 22, the sound of the Cowboy Marching Band filled the Student Union Amphitheater as past and present Pistol Petes came together for the inaugural Pistol Pete Roll Call Round-up.
Matt Ralls, No. 56, served as Pistol Pete from 1996 to 1998. He initiated the idea and developed this tradition as a way to honor Eaton and memorialize those Pistol Petes who passed away in the last year. To this day, 94 individuals have suited up and had the honor of representing OSU as the mascot.
“This is a ceremony meant to remind us of the legacy and the traditions which bind us together and to remember those who walked in the boots before us as we call the names of all the Pistol Petes,” Ralls said.
Six families were honored with a single OSU spur mounted in a shadow box with a custom leather patch, including the Pistol Pete’s name, number and years of service. The shadow boxes were constructed by Mike Martin, No. 20.
“Today, we gather to remember our Pistol Pete alumni who have passed and those who will carry this tradition far into the future,” Petty said.
Because 2022 was the inaugural year, the brotherhood honored Petes who had passed away over the last several years.
The honorees were:
- Charlie Lester, No. 1, 1958-59
- David Davis, No. 5, 1961-62
- Mitch Dobson, No. 12, 1966-67
- Ned Kessler, No. 16, 1970-71
- Mark Whitlaw, No. 24, 1974-76
- Rick Dillard, No. 27, 1976-78
Their families went forward together to accept their shadow box, as each name was called.
When Dobson's name was read, his three children went together to receive the shadow box in honor of their father.
“It’s been a long time coming that they do something like this for the Petes,” Jim Dobson said. “It's a big organization now. It's such a small deal because there are only two Petes every year, which makes it more special. They've always done a pretty good job of getting the word out, but this is unbelievable.”
With tears falling from behind his sunglasses, Jay Dobson could only say one word about what it was like to be at the ceremony to honor his father and his legacy — “moving.”
Knowing their father’s name will be called each year during the roll call, Katie (Dobson) Liston said it helps keep the memory alive of what all Pistol Petes stand for and the integrity it takes to have the privilege of being the mascot.
As they reflected on their father’s time as Pete, and the many memories he shared with them, the homecoming parade every year stood out in particular as a favorite of theirs to watch him live his glory days.
Cathy Dillard Byrum began dating Rick Dillard while he was Pistol Pete. Each time her family comes back to campus, they have traditions like visiting the spot where her and Rick placed their initials in the concrete. Without a doubt, the Pistol Pete Roll Call will be added to the list.
“I just keep thinking he would love this,” Cathy said.
Reflecting on Rick’s time as Pete, Cathy remembers driving the truck for him during the Homecoming parade and embroidering Pistol Pete on the back of his shirts.
“It has come so far because now they have the belt buckle and the uniforms. Back when Rick was there, they gave him the head and he had to come up with everything else,” Cathy said.
Derick Dillard never got the chance to tell his father he was trying out for Pistol Pete, but in 2009 he followed in his father's footsteps and became Pistol Pete No. 76.
For Derick, attending the Pistol Pete Roll Call was special because he grew up attending homecoming events with his father and then joined the brotherhood himself, but this time he was able to hear his name called alongside his fathers and the other Petes.
Being back on campus for all the game day festivities brought back memories for Derick.
“I remember walking down Hester Street before my first home game and then pregame firing off the shotgun and yelling O-S-U and just thinking about what my dad would be thinking,” Derick said.
After honoring the Pistol Petes who have passed away, they performed roll call of all 94 Pistol Petes while families, friends and acquaintances were encouraged to shout ‘here’ as their Pete was called.
“Thank you for being here to say ‘here’ and present on behalf of your Pete,” Petty said. “You will always be part of our family and we will always honor you and the legacy that your Pete left behind.”