Many factors contribute to the "college experience" - not the least of which is gaining a feeling of belonging and a sense of loyalty to the school, its faculty and staff, the community that embraces the university, and the athletic teams that compete to garner conference and national honors.
Wearing school colors and displaying emblems of the university are life-long symbols of allegiance. Here, we explore the stories behind Oklahoma State's mascots, symbols, celebrations, traditions and spirit organizations.
From the 1890s on, Oklahoma A&M
sports teams had been referred to as the Agriculturists or
Aggies, the Farmers, and officially - but unpopularly - the
Tigers. But by 1924, Charles Saulsberry, sports editor of the
Oklahoma City Times, and other writers who regularly covered
college events had begun to refer to Stillwater's teams as the
A&M Cowboys. Reporters in search of colorful synonyms started
sprinkling Cowpokes, Pokes, Waddies, Cowpunchers and Punchers in
"Cowboys" had a Southwestern flavor and flair
that fit like a favorite pair of boots. The Athletic Council
authorized Athletic Director Edward C. Gallagher to have 2,000
balloons printed, "Oklahoma Aggies - Ride 'em, Cowboy" for sale
at football games in 1926.
The nickname quickly germinated, yielding a genuine identity
that had long been lacking on both campus and off. Around 1923,
an early U.S. deputy marshal, gun-totin' Frank B. "Pistol Pete"
Eaton of Perkins, headed Stillwater's Armistice Day parade. For
some time students and alumni had considered Indians, various
animals, and deputy marshals as a replacement for the Tigers. At
the parade's end, the search was over.
The spirited image of a tough, proud, self-reliant cowboy
triggered by Eaton became a cartoon drawing. The new mascot was
easily woven into the fabric of campus life. Not until 1984
would official sanction be given the emblem and its "Pistol
Pete" moniker, but by then the Cowboys already had been settled
comfortably into sixty years of sports vocabularies and print,
spilling over into all general references to the student body
and alumni, faculty and fans.
On May 15, 1957, Governor Raymond Gary's signature made
official the changing of the name of Oklahoma A&M College to
Oklahoma State University of Agriculture and Applied Science.
For some time alumni and administrators had felt the increasing
size and score of the 67-year-old school merited a name
descriptive of its operations, activities and services. The days
of classwork done in partitioned nooks of local churches had
long faded. The progressive land-grant giant deserved a title to
match its maturing image as a strong, educational power anchored
on a beautiful, sprawling campus.
With a new name for the university in Stillwater, the old
nicknames began to fade.
Goodbye, Tigers and Aggies. Howdy, Cowboys and Cowgirls!
Victor Herbert was inadvertently responsible for a deeply entrenched
facet of A&M athletic tradition, the waving song. His lyricist was
speech instructor H.G. Seldy Seldombridge. In 1908, Seldombridge had
gone to Columbia University to scout for a senior class play. While
there, he heard In Old New York, the hit song from the operetta The Red
Mill. Even New Yorkers were humming the song on city streets, and Seldombridge returned to Oklahoma humming it, too.
Singer Billy Murray
performs "In Old New York," the inspiration for OSU's
Shortly thereafter, he incorporated In Old New York into the
closing number of a college follies show being rehearsed in
Stillwater's Grand Opera House. But as he studied the stage decorated
in orange and black for a campus scene, he realized that New York's
praises were out of place for a southwestern college setting.
"Suddenly OAMC flashed to my mind," he explained in 1941. He asked the 30-voice choir to take a break, grabbed a piece of wrapping
paper, hummed, and scribbled. In less than ten minutes he had the
alternate lyrics that would enliven sports events long after opening
For that finale, a letterman representing each sport joined
the chorus onstage. The students added their own memorable touch. They
swayed and sang "OAMC! OAMC! We'll sing your praise tonight," as they
waved to the audience in unison.
It almost raised the roof off the old building, noted
Seldombridge, who left the campus in 1910. Exhilarated, the crowd
surged to its feet and returned the rhythmic wave. It took two encores
before the campus and community gathering was willing to relinquish the
emotion of the moment.
"From that night on, you could frequently hear someone
whistling the tune," he recalled, touched that OAMC's waving song was
remembered as late as 1941.
The Cowboy Marching
Band performs "The Trilogy," consisting of the Waving
Song, Ride 'Em Cowboys and OSU Chant. Video recorded by
the OSU Alumni Association.
The Waving Song tradition continues to this day with OSU fans
rising to their feet and waving one arm in rhythm with the song
after scores in football and following victories in other
sports. Contrary to popular misconception, this tradition should
not be referred to as "Waving the Wheat," which is the name of
the two-armed wave adopted by University of Kansas fans.
The Waving Song Lyrics
Oklahoma State! Oklahoma State! We'll sing your praise tonight; To let you know where e're we go, For the Orange and Black we'll fight We'll sing your worth o'er all the Earth And shout: Ki Yi! Ki Ye! In books of fame we'll write your name, Oklahoma State!
"Ride 'Em Cowboys" Lyrics
Ride, ride, ride, ride, Ride'em Cowboys, Right down the field! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight'em Cowboys, and never yield.! Ride, ride, ride, ride, Ride on, Cowboys, to victory; Cross (opponent)s goal; Then we'll sing 'O-kla-homa State!'
The Waving Song
tradition at OSU dates back over a century to its first
performance in 1908.
The Waving Song
continues today as one of the most recognizable OSU gameday
Homecoming Week is celebrated throughout the
country. At Oklahoma State University, Homecoming has special
meaning and the celebration reaches a level unmatched anywhere
else. In fact, "America's Greatest Homecoming Celebration" at
OSU is known coast-to-coast as one of the country's great
college football weeks and weekends.
Homecoming activities, more than 50,000 alumni visit Stillwater.
That total does not include fans and alumni who make the trek
just for the football game.
The traditions of
Oklahoma State University Homecoming Week. Video recorded by
the OSU Alumni Association.
From street painting to Orange Ambiance, and from the
well-known "Walkaround" in which the city streets are closed for
a gigantic block party centered around Homecoming decorations,
to "Homecoming & Hoops" nothing says college football like
Homecoming Week at Oklahoma State. It is the epitome of life in
a college town.
A variety of activities are held throughout Homecoming Week
and they touch nearly every aspect of campus life.
The library fountain
is dyed orange every Homecoming Week.
featuring elaborate house decorations, is one of the most
popular Homecoming attractions.
The OSU Spirit Rider first appeared in 1984.
The late Eddy Finley, who was asked to come up with a mascot for
the band, started the Spirit Rider program. Finley, an
agricultural education professor, wanted a mascot who could
carry the OSU flag down the field after each touchdown.
Beall Jr. was the first OSU Spirit Rider. Beall was a member of
the OSU Rodeo Team and rode his own horse, a black mare named
Ellis and Mary Grace Hostmeyer donated a 5-year-old gelding
named Stars Parr Money four years after the program's
initiation. This horse would be used as the official spirit
horse for the OSU Athletic Department in return for season
tickets and decoration credit. The horse's common name, Bullet,
was chosen after a campus-wide contest was held in the Daily
Football games are the most important appearance the Spirit
Rider makes. The Spirit Rider leads the Spirit Walk, marches to
the field with the OSU Marching Band and runs to the 30-yard
line after a touchdown.
Game days for the Spirit Rider start at least three hours
before kickoff. The rider and the ground crew meet at the horse
barn to brush and dress the horse. They then travel to the
Seretean Center for the Spirit Walk.
After the walk, the rider and horse return to the Edmon Low
Library to lead the band to the field. Forty-five minutes before
game time, the Spirit Rider and the band march to Boone Pickens Stadium to make their grand entrance.
The band marches on the field and splits into two groups. As
the crowd goes wild, the announcer yells, "Here … comes …
Here comes Bullet!
Bullet has his own
stall in the West End Zone of Boone Pickens Stadium.
A tradition that began with head coach Les Miles continues with head
coach Mike Gundy.
The night before football games, the team stays in
the Atherton Hotel at the Student Union. On game day, two hours and
fifteen minutes prior to the start of the game, the team walks down
Hester Street to Boone Pickens Stadium. Coach Gundy leads the spirited
parade, followed by the OSU Marching band, the spirit squad and, of
course, the players.
Fans already at the stadium gather on the side of the road
and cheer their Cowboys on to victory. This tradition quickly
became a favorite of Cowboy fans, creating a new and exciting
way for the team to enter the stadium.
Tens of thousands of
Cowboy fans line Hester Street before every home game to
greet the Cowboys as they make their way to Boone Pickens
Another tradition started by OSU Football Coach
Les Miles and continued today by Mike Gundy is the post-game singing of
the OSU Alma Mater.
After every win at Boone Pickens Stadium, OSU
players and coaches gather in front of the student section in the
northwest corner of the stadium and sing the alma mater. All fans,
students and non-students are encouraged to remain in the stands after
OSU victories and join the Cowboys for the Alma Mater hymn.
even sang the alma mater in Norman in 2001, following their upset win
over the Oklahoma Sooners. Cowboy fans were seated in a corner of Owen
Field, and when the final buzzer rang, with the score OSU 16 - OU 13,
the team stood on the field in front of them and celebrated the victory
with their loyal fans.
The tradition has expanded over the years into other sports. The Cowboy Football
team also now sings the Alma Mater at road games with the loyal OSU fans that
have traveled to cheer the Pokes on to victory.
Alma Mater Hymn Lyrics
Proud and immortal Bright Shines Your Name Oklahoma State We Herald Your Fame Ever You'll Find Us Loyal and True To Our Alma Mater O - S - U
Cowboy players sing
the alma mater during the 2011 football season.
This post-game OSU
tradition has been expanded into other sports.
With the unveiling of the renovated and
expanded Gallagher-Iba Arena came another tradition - the Spirit
At the under-8:00 timeout during the second half of OSU
home basketball games, a member of the OSU Spirit Squad runs
around the upper level of the arena carrying a huge OSU flag
while the Spirit Band plays the "William Tell Overture."
The flag is then passed to other members of the Spirit Squad,
until it finally arrives to the center of Eddie Sutton Court to
be waved until the end of the song.
The upper concourse of
Gallagher-Iba Arena is cleared for the OSU Spirit Run.
Around 1923, when Oklahoma A & M College was
searching for a new mascot to replace their tiger (copied along
with orange and black colors, from Princeton), a group of
students saw Frank Eaton leading the Armistice Day Parade. He
was approached to see if he would be interested in being the
model for the new mascot, and he agreed. A likeness was drawn
and began to be used on sweatshirts, stickers, etc. and a
tradition was born.
That caricature was the basis for what is used today as the
official Oklahoma State University Mascot. For thirty-five
years, the crusty old cowboy was a living symbol of OSU,
representing the colorful past of the area. As such, he would
attend OSU athletic events, building dedications, etc., and sign
autographs, pose for photographs and reminisce about the Old
West with anyone who would listen. 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, his 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. Each year, 10
to 15 OSU students tryout for Pistol Pete. A panel of former "Petes"
judge the tryouts and select the two best candidates based on an
interview, a mime, and posing as mascot in different "game
situations". The two who are selected split the approximately
500 appearances annually. These appearances include all athletic
events, pep rallies, business openings, weddings, birthday
parties, and public school events.
Though Pistol Pete has been OSU's mascot since 1923, only
since 1958 has someone worn the current garb and "head". The
former Pistol Petes and the years they served are as follows:
"My boy, may an old man's curse rest upon
you, if you do not try to avenge your father...You must never
stop until they are all accounted for!"
These words, according to one of Eaton's many stories were
spoken by a family friend following the brutal murder of his
father, and guided the formative years of Frank's life. Born in
1860, in Hartford, Connecticut, Frank moved with his family to
Kansas shortly after the close of the Civil War. When Frank was
eight years old, his father, a former Union soldier, was shot
and killed by a group of lawless former Confederates. Frank was
a witness to the murder and each of the murderers' faces was
imprinted in his memory.
The history of
Pistol Pete and the man that inspired the mascot, Frank
After being challenged to avenge his father's death by Mose
Beaman, (the family friend) Frank set out to learn how to handle
guns. Mose gave him a gun and holster, and taught him how to
handle and shoot guns. Frank quickly learned to "shoot a snake's
head off with either hand". During the next few years, Frank's
days were spent helping his mother with chores and practicing
shooting. With each passing year, he became faster and more
accurate with his guns.
When Frank was fifteen, he learned of the location of one of
his father's killers. After deciding it was almost time to set
out on his mission, Frank wanted to make sure his shooting
skills were good enough. He decided to visit Fort Gibson, a
cavalry fort, to try to learn more about handling a gun. There
he competed with the cavalry's best marksmen, beating them each
time. After many competitions, the fort's commanding officer,
Colonel Copinger gave Frank a marksmanship badge and a new name.
From that day forward, Frank would be known as Pistol Pete!
Frank then set out on the trail of his father's killers. First
was Shannon Campsey, Frank killed him on his own front porch.
Doc Ferber was next, he was shot off of his horse with "two
forty-five slugs through his breast". John Ferber would have
been next, but the day before Frank caught up with him, he was
shot for cheating at cards. Frank went to his funeral just to
make sure he was dead. At John Ferber's funeral, Frank met a
Deputy United States Marshal who was on the trail of the same
men. After talking about the men, Frank was offered, and
accepted a commission.
At seventeen, Frank became a Deputy
U.S. Marshal under Judge Isaac C. Parker, "the hanging judge."
Frank then caught up with Jim and Jonce Campsey together. They
were both shot as they drew on Frank. Finally Frank tracked down
the last murderer in New Mexico. Wyley Campsey was shot in a
barroom gunfight along with two of his hired gunmen. Finally,
after six long years, Frank Eaton was able to avenge his
father's death. Each man drew his gun first, but came out
"second best" in the end.
Stories such as the above contributed to the fame and notoriety
of Frank Eaton. He lived the life of a true cowboy, said to
"pack the fastest guns in the Indian Territory", he usually
carried a loaded forty-five and often said "I'd rather have a
pocket full of rocks than an empty gun". His quick-draw was the
source of much interest throughout his later years, and Glenn
Shirley of Stillwater, OK remembers taking him to an Indian
Territory Gun Collectors Association meeting to show off his
skills. He was also known to throw a coin in the air, draw, and
shoot it before it hit the ground according to H.F. Donnelley of
Stillwater who saw it himself. Donnelley also remembers Eaton
picking up burning coals that had fallen out of the fire in his
Blacksmith shop, with his toes (his feet were so worn and
calloused that he couldn't feel it)!
When he died, his obituary appeared throughout the country,
in the New York Times, Newsweek Magazine, the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, the San Francisco Chronicle, The
Cattleman, The 1959 American People's Encyclopedia Yearbook
among others, each listing him as a former Deputy U.S. Marshal.
In addition, according to his daughter, Elizabeth Wise of
Perkins, OK his family received sympathy letters from as far
away as Germany, Canada and Japan and was besieged with visitors
at his home for many months following the funeral.
More information on Frank "Pistol Pete" Eaton, including
personal correspondence and remembrances, audio interviews,
photos, articles, etc. is available from the Oklahoma State
University Office of University Archives and Special
Frank Eaton, from
nearby Perkins, was the inspiration for OSU's Pistol Pete
mascot. Eaton became an expert marksman and served as a U.S.
deputy marshal after his father's murder.
Frank Eaton shows off
his pistols to Oklahoma A&M students. Behind them is one
caricatures of Eaton that would serve as the basis of the
current Pistol Pete logo.