BY JOSEPH STURGEON
Pistol Pete has been Cooper City High’s mascot for almost all of the school’s 49-year existence. You can’t really talk about CCHS culture without mentioning him; he’s plastered on top of lunch tables, present at all of the football games and always patrolling the bottom floor of the 3900 building.
He’s ever-present in the CCHS community, and yet, no one really has an idea of who he is. Sure, he’s a cowboy—he wouldn’t be the mascot if he weren’t one—but where did he come from? What’s his life like? Why is he so important?
“The Legend of Pistol Pete,” which can be found in the school’s display case and in the 2003 volume of The Round Up, attempts to explain the enigmatic mascot:
“Pistol Pete, known for his bad attitude, unstoppable rebellion and plain old rotten outlook on life was struck by a bolt of lightnin’ and died instantly,” the legend reads. “One hundred years later, January 1971 to be exact, a school was being built on the very same spot of the unmarked grave of Pistol Pete. That ol’ Pete seized the opportunity and his soul was revived. Only this time, he was a very different man from that mean old coot of a hundred years ago.”
The legend goes on to talk about how Pete’s old soul was now filled with brotherhood, love and pride. He awakened, took a look at the newly-built CCHS campus and decided he was brought back for a reason: to fill each hallway, classroom and student with his newfound spirit. Of course, this is only a fraction of the full story. What was Pete’s first life like, before he was struck by lightning? What did he do for a living?
“There would have to be a student body vote to change his name.”
The answer is: Pistol Pete was an author, a marksman and allegedly a deputy marshal. The mascot is based on the real-life man, Frank Eaton. Now deceased, Eaton’s entire mission in life was to avenge the death of his father. In 1868, when Eaton was 8 years old, his father was slaughtered by six Confederate soldiers. That same year, Eaton moved to Oklahoma on his own and lived the rest of his life there. He was known for his quick draw, marksmanship and incredible horse riding ability.
Despite the name, Cooper City’s Pistol Pete doesn’t carry any firearms. At football games, pep rallies and other events, the mascot carries a lasso with him, using it to wrap his adversaries into his grasp. Because of this, he’s been referred to in the past by students as Lasso Larry, a name that even made its way into the 1995 volume of The Round Up, but there’s never been an official name change.
Notably, in the illustration of Pistol Pete in the school’s display case, he’s wearing an ammunition belt with two guns, both tucked in a holster. After the Columbine massacre, CCHS administration decided to remove any images of Pistol Pete with a gun, replacing it with a lasso. The costume of Pistol Pete has never contained any guns.
“[His name has] never been changed, the tradition has always been just Pistol Pete,” Principal Wendy Doll said. “There would have to be a student body vote to change his name, so what we did was we took the pistols off. We don’t use any mascot picture of [Pistol Pete] with guns on them.”
In 1975, roughly one year before Pete was introduced, the school used a live pig as the official football team mascot.
CCHS isn’t the only academic institution to use Pistol Pete as their mascot. In fact, he’s been Oklahoma State University’s mascot since the 1920s. With their name being the Cowboys, the CCHS’ football team was initially going to emulate the Dallas Cowboys’ mascot, a star, but decided not to.
“Hollis Coleman brought [Pistol Pete] in back around 1976. [Coleman] was the second athletic director and first football coach at Cooper City,” athletic director Paul Megna said. “They looked at the Oklahoma State cowboy and that was the guy that they wanted to replicate. They wanted it to be a true cowboy, and not necessarily the star, because the colors didn’t coincide. The colors coincided with Oklahoma State’s—whose [Pistol Pete] is actually orange, not red—but the colors were close so that’s when they went ahead and started using Pistol Pete as their mascot.”
Pistol Pete hasn’t always been the CCHS mascot. According to Megna, there was a stint in the ‘90s in which the mascot was a star. In 1975, roughly one year before Pete was introduced, the school used a live pig as the official football team mascot. This sparked national controversy, due to the fact that the team told reporters they would eat the pig in a barbecue at the end of the season.
The controversy is what inspired the Hog Bowl, an annual football game between Western High and CCHS, in which the losing team’s principal had to kiss a pig, something that has become a lost tradition at CCHS.
Whether the mascot is a cowboy, a star or a pig, the way CCHS goes about expressing their spirit is the furthest from typical.
Photo by Makinzi Burgs