Oral History Interview
Interview Conducted by
October 17, 2008
Oral History Project
Special Collections & University Archives
Edmon Low Library ● Oklahoma State University
An Oral History Project of the OSU Library
Interviewer: Jennifer Paustenbaugh
Transcriber: Jill Minahan
Editors: Jacob Sherman, Latasha Wilson, Tanya Finchum
The recording and transcript of this interview were processed at the Oklahoma State
University Library in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
The purpose of O-STATE Stories Oral History Project is to gather and preserve memories
revolving around Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (OAMC) and Oklahoma
State University (OSU).
This project was approved by the Oklahoma State University Institutional Review Board on
October 5, 2006.
Scholarly use of the recordings and transcripts of the interview with Kurt Carter is
unrestricted. The interview agreement was signed on October 18, 2008.
An Oral History Project of the OSU Library
About Kurt Carter…
Kurt Carter, a former Pistol Pete, is a member of the 1981 graduating class of Oklahoma
State University (OSU). He came to OSU as a sophomore and immediately became involved
in the Student Union Activities Board. While on the board, he served as Vice President of
Student Activities. During his senior year, Kurt was Executive Chairman of Homecoming,
Pistol Pete, and Varsity Review emcee.
After graduating from OSU, Kurt’s first job was working for the Alumni Association as the
advisor for Homecoming. After that he worked for two years for the OSU Foundation. He
would go on to become Assistant Athletic Director, a position he held for eight years, and
headed up the OSU Posse. After leaving the University, he worked for Phillips Petroleum.
Kurt now heads up the investment program for Stillwater National Bank and lives in
An Oral History Project of the OSU Library
Oral History Interview
Interviewed by Jennifer Paustenbaugh
October 17, 2008
Today is Friday, October 17th. We’re at the Alumni Center on the OSU
campus. This is Jennifer Paustenbaugh, and I am here interviewing Kurt
Carter who is a former Pistol Pete. We are going to talk about his
experiences as a Pete—as one of many Petes at OSU. Can you
remember the first time that you saw the Pistol Pete mascot and what
your impression of it was?
Gee, probably only once I came to Oklahoma State. I can’t remember if
I’d seen it in high school. I grew up in Oklahoma City. I can’t really
remember. Pete wasn’t that visible at that point. As I’d come up here and
went to school the first two or three years, I became really intrigued with
the mascot and how visible it was and that it was based on a real person.
Those kinds of things, so I’d say probably once I got to Oklahoma State.
Okay. You said that it was cool because he was based on a real person
but is there anything other than that that stands out?
You know, it’s an interesting deal. I don’t really think that all the parts
of being Pistol Pete hit you until you do it, and probably even until after
you do it. I think as a student you see it a particular way. It’s fun. You’re
at the athletic events. You get to go to all those things, and it’s kind of
based on athletics and the presence there but in reality, there’s a lot to it.
You’re doing parades. You’re doing alumni events. You’re a
spokesperson really for the university. I don’t think until you become
Pete are you really aware of really what it’s all about.
What did you do growing up to prepare yourself for the role of being
Pistol Pete? You’ve already said pretty much that you hadn’t seen Pete
until you came here—it wasn’t a role that you aspired to.
I’d say very little actually. (Laughter) I was always active though as a
student speaker and a student leader in high school and doing plays and
being in the public eye. I was not nervous about doing that. All that
being said, I think the first time that you walk out in front of 50, 60,
70,000 people, even though you have that head on, you’re very nervous.
But I think as you interview all the Petes as you’re doing, they’re
certainly a bunch of extroverts, and so we have that in common. I don’t
know that I did anything specifically to prepare, but I think we’re just a
lot of extroverts that like to get out and have fun, ham it up a little bit.
So what made you decide to come to OSU in the first place?
My best friend from high school was here. I had started my education as
a student trainer at Central State because they gave me a full scholarship.
I went there and all my friends were having so much fun up here at
Oklahoma State that they talked me into transferring. So I actually came
up here as a sophomore and then extended to the five-year plan, and the
fifth year I was Pistol Pete.
What were some of the other activities you were involved in outside of
being Pete? You said you were Pete as a fifth year, so what did you do
prior to that?
Well when I came up here—and this is one thing that I always talk to
young people who are trying to make a decision about going to a
university—I transferred here, and so I did not end up in a fraternity. I
was an independent, yet I was able to do everything on campus that I
wanted to, and that’s something I think is unique about Oklahoma State.
We have a very strong Greek system. We’ve got very strong residence
halls—independents. You can do anything here you want to do. In my
particular case, I got involved in the Student Union Activities Board and
moved up to Vice President of Student Activities, and then I emceed
Varsity Review twice. My junior year and the year I was Pete, I was
emcee. Actually my senior year was very busy. I was Executive
Chairman of Homecoming and Pistol Pete and emcee of Varsity Review
that year. It was one of the favorite years of my life. It really was. It was
a lot of fun.
I’m sure it was. So you must be really good at balancing lots of
I think that most of us are at our best when we’re busiest. You have to
allocate time to do those kinds of things, and I do think that’s one thing I
have carried into my adult life, my professional life, that really did help
me was that frantic year of having to get everything done. So it really
Are you aware of any other Petes that served as both Pete and Executive
Chair of Homecoming in the same year? (Laughs)
No. I don’t think anyone has done that or emceed Varsity Review. Yes,
it was a lot of fun, though, and it was really fulfilling. The relationships
that you forge during that time, those are the ones you carry the rest of
your life with you.
So when did you first decide that you wanted to be Pistol Pete?
You know it was on a lark. It was not something planned. I saw the
interviews advertised in The O’Colly, and I only decided about a week
before to go try out. Keep in mind, in 1981 things were not as organized
and structured here on campus in regard to Pistol Pete as they are now. It
was run by Student Activities, and so I went up and interviewed and I
thought I had a good interview. They called me that night and said I was
the guy and I was astonished (Laughs) and very pleased, but I didn’t
really know what I had gotten myself into in terms of the time
commitment and those things. But it turned out to be one of the greatest
parts of my life.
So what was the interview process like?
Oh, at that time they asked us—it was pretty similar to now—the only
difference was that at that time the staff advisors from the Student
Affairs area or the Student Activities area would do the interviewing.
Where now, and maybe probably for the last 20 or 25 years, the former
Pistol Petes do the interviewing and we pick the Petes each year. The
interview I think is similar. You want to see how a person looks with the
head on, if you can do a rope trick, if you can do some physical things. I
think you’re also looking—and certainly what we look for now—is do
you understand the level of commitment that it takes to be Pete from a
time perspective? And everyone thinks, “Well, that would be so much
fun to do the football games and this,” but each Pete—of course we have
two a year now—and each of those young men will make almost 300
appearances each. So they’re somewhere every day, and sometimes you
want to be there and sometimes you’d rather not be there, but you have
to get in costume and you have to get your mind right, if you will, and
go to work and represent the university. So the interview is pretty much
structured the same, but just different people do it now with the Petes.
So when did they switch to the two-Pete model?
I guess that was about—I’m gonna say that was maybe 15 years ago,
because before that we would have a Pistol Pete and an alternate. In my
year, Don Giles—great young guy from here in Stillwater—was my
alternate and he became Pete the next year. In my deal, I think I did 268
appearances in 365 days and Don did probably 75 or 80. Now, it just got
so many appearances that we went with two Pistol Petes and, like I say,
they do a lot of appearances now.
So the former Petes now are the ones that choose the current Pete, so
when does that interview process occur and what would be a typical
year in terms of the number of people that try out?
The Pistol Pete tryouts occur generally in April each year, and the
athletic department, the Spirit Coordinators. Right now it’s Tracy
Wittwer, who is the Spirit Team coach. She coordinates everything, calls
the Pistol Petes, figures out who’s gonna come. And there will be
anywhere from five to eight ex-Pistol Petes. We kind of take turns being
here. Depending on the year, we may have anywhere from 20 to 35
young men try out. We’ve had some young women try out. A lot of our
selection is based on physical look, of course, because you have to have
some height to you. That’s a very large head on that costume, and if
you’re not careful—if the individual’s too short, you kind of look like a
head with feet, you look like a Smurf. So you have to be careful about
that so …
I’ve never thought about that. (Laughs)
You almost have to be around six feet tall to get the proportion, but then
mostly we’re looking for commitment. If someone has an outgoing
personality, they can go to camp and learn how to be a mascot, how to
do the things people think Pete does—but we’re looking for
commitment of, do you know the year you’re in for? Do you have any
idea of the unbelievable time commitment? Not until after you are Pete,
I think, do you slide into this alumni mix of cherishing it like we all do.
So going back to something you just said about you can go to camp and
learn how to do the things that Pete does, is there some sort of training
program for the Petes?
Well they actually go to cheerleader camp with the OSU cheerleaders
each year and typically I think it’s maybe down at SMU. There’s a
mascot part to that where they learn how to be demonstrative and make
their actions big and all the different things. Several of our Petes at the
cheerleading camps have been named what’s called “All American
Mascot,” chosen as the best mascot in the country. I can’t recall them all
by name, but over the years we’ve had a number of those as well. That
was something that in 1981 would never have been considered…
Okay, I was going to say…
The cheerleaders didn’t even go to camp, I don’t think. As it has evolved
and matured, it just gets better and better.
So did you receive any kind of compensation for being Pete other than
the great memories?
No. We didn’t have any kind of stipend. Actually it was sometimes
tough to get our mileage covered even, and so we incurred quite a bit of
expense on our own.
So what was the Pistol Pete costume like when you were Pistol Pete?
It was very similar to now. One of the heads that we use now, I think,
was the same one I used—is one that was produced by a gentleman that
worked for Disney. The chaps were a little different because they’re
kind of tan and they were made at OSU-Okmulgee in their leather shop.
Since then—again, everything’s been cleaned up a little. They’re orange
chaps now. Everything’s a little crisper and cleaner and has a uniform
look, but basically it was the same—boots and jeans, a white shirt, black
leather vest, your chaps and the head and that was still pretty much the
outfit. It’s just a bit more refined today.
Were there any “do’s and don’ts” about being Pistol Pete?
You know, quite frankly I had very little guidance. I think that they
turned you loose and said, “Have some common sense about this and
make sure that you’re doing the right thing. Behave yourself and
conduct yourself like your mom and dad raised you,” (Laughter) was
about the extent of it. So I kind of adopted the attitude of, “Hey, until
somebody tells me to do something different, I’m gonna try to do the
best I can and be aggressive really with the program and be all the places
I can be.” But it was a lot easier on us in some regards. It’s a lot easier
on the Petes now because it’s so organized and they don’t have to worry
about different things, but it was easier on us because we didn’t have so
much direction either—and really the time commitment was not near
what they have now, even though I did 268 appearances in a year…
Yeah, I was gonna say, it was still significant.
…it’s still tough. These guys really work hard I know.
There was one thing I wanted to ask you about the Pistol Pete costume.
Some of the older Petes used pistols all the time and then now we see the
shotgun a lot. Were you purely a pistol guy or did you have…
’81 was a pistol guy. We just had the one pistol, and we had that gun in
service for a long time. It was a .357 Blackhawk Ruger, and one thing a
lot of people don’t understand is we go to great lengths to ensure safety
with those firearms because those are not pop guns. Those are real
firearms and they can hurt people. So we are very cautious and we
always instruct the Pete—they go through gun safety courses with OSU
police and we have safeguards in place. We just have to be very careful
with those and very respectful of the fact that we still get to enjoy having
those firearms as part of our mascot image.
Right, because I’m not aware of any other mascot that has a firearm as
part of their image.
I can’t think of another mascot. I know that some spirit groups use those
with shotguns and things—I think at Texas Tech and perhaps at OU and
different places—but not the mascot itself probably.
Was your experience as Pistol Pete what you thought it was going to be?
And if it wasn’t, how was it different?
Well again, I kind of took it on a lark and so I don’t know if I had a lot
of expectations. Well let me answer that two ways. I had so few
expectations, and it was beyond my wildest dreams—not only what it
was like doing it—it was a lot of fun doing it. What happened to me was
I forged relationships both on campus and off, and I still have hundreds
if not thousands of relationships intact that have helped guide my
professional career. I started off, as a matter of fact, right out of school. I
told you I had been Homecoming Executive Chairman, and so my first
job out of college was working for the Alumni Association as the
advisor for homecoming.
Oh, how perfect! (Laughs)
Yes, called the Field Director, and I worked for the OSU Foundation for
two years …
What did you do at the Foundation?
Raised money for the general university fund and then I became
assistant athletic director for eight years and headed up the OSU Posse
and the fundraising and those kinds of things. So there was a natural
trilogy for me that started with Pistol Pete and then my first 10 years in
my work life I spent here at Oklahoma State. It was a great blessing to
So what do you do now?
I head up the investment program for Stillwater National Bank. I live in
Edmond. Of course we’re still headquartered here.
My office is in Oklahoma City, but yeah. Again, I think my path to the
bank actually started way back in Pistol Pete probably.
Yeah. Who would have thought, right? (Laughs)
So what was a typical week like for you as Pete?
Well, once school started, of course everything really picks up through
the fall. A typical week was pretty easy through football season until you
got into Friday night pep rallies. All day Saturday you might go to a
reception for the College of Engineering and then go somewhere else
and do something else—do a parade, go to the game. Where it really
picks up is when the sports started overlapping and you’re at the end of
football season and basketball and wrestling has started. So you’re doing
women’s basketball or you’re doing wrestling matches and you’re doing
lots of double-headers. That was the really busy time, that overlap
So do you know what year Pete started going to women’s athletic
No, I don’t. I would say probably really actively about the last 10 years
because I probably only did two or three when I was Pete.
All right. I wasn’t sure if that was something that you might have started
or was something that was already in place but just not …
No. Jennifer, keep in mind that 1981—that’s about the time that Title IX
came to fruition, and to the best of my recollection, I think that our
women’s programs were not even in the NCAA at the time. I think they
were the AIAW or something, and so that was when it all started.
So right about the crossover year.
That’s about the crossover time.
Interesting. Did you have difficulty balancing your two lives? It sounds
like you were living like three or four lives (Laughs) while you were
I was. Probably if something suffered, it was my academics. (Laughter)
Best I recall, I may have dropped under 12 hours finally by the spring,
Was that a requirement to keep 12 hours?
It wasn’t at the time.
Is it now?
Absolutely, yeah. And again that’s what I say, the Petes now enjoy so
much more benefits and structure, but they have a lot more rules, too.
And they have to maintain certain GPAs. We just had to stay out of
Sometimes that’s a challenge in and of itself!
There were a couple of days probably, yeah.
So what was your favorite athletic event to portray Pete at?
Basketball? Why was that?
Well it’s up close and personal. Of course this is before the Gallagher-
Iba Arena was enlarged and renovated, so it was a cracker box. It was
6,400 people or so and…
But loud. (Laughs)
It was extremely loud and of course also at that time, our basketball
program was very good and our football program was struggling.
It’s just like everything else—when you’re winning, it’s more fun. But
basketball was a lot of fun to do.
Now right at the beginning of the interview you said that one of the
things that interested you about Pete was the fact that he was based on a
real person. Realizing that Frank Eaton had been dead for a number of
years when you took on the role, was there anything that you learned
about him that informed the way that you portrayed Pete? Any
characteristics you were aware of him having?
Absolutely. I could closely identify with Frank Eaton. My family—my
mom and dad are from southeastern Oklahoma, fondly referred to in this
area as “Little Dixie.”
Little Dixie, yeah. Right.
They grew up very poor, agriculture. My dad actually dated my mom by
horseback in the 1950s, and so the background of Frank Eaton with the
law enforcement and the guns and the legacy, if you will. I heard those
similar kinds of stories from my family background and people down in
southeastern Oklahoma where that was really how everybody lived, you
know. You took care of your own problems and everybody got all scores
settled and those kind of things and so I connected with there. The other
thing I connected with was he died the year I was born, 1958, which, of
course, was the first year that we had Pete. Now, as you know, our Pete
in 1958, Alan Leach, just portrayed a cowboy. He didn’t have the
papier-mâché head. Then after that we developed papier-mâché and then
through the composite materials we use today for the Pistol Pete head.
But I connected very well with Frank Eaton.
So were you ever involved in any type of mascot competition?
No. Again, they would be today. Back then we would not have had the
budget to be in a mascot competition.
So at the time that you were Pete in the Big Eight Conference, did all of
the schools have mascots that appeared at the games?
They did. Some of them were kind of rinky-dink. Some of them were
Some of them in Stillwater?
Yeah, yeah. I mean, you had one of everything. Of course Colorado
always had Ralphie the Buffalo, the real buffalo. I don’t think they had
Chip, the little squirrel-y looking guy—no offense—well, a little bit—
but I don’t think he was around. The guys down south, they still had the
little dogs pulling the wagon. I guess they may be horses, I don’t know. I
don’t know if they’re horses or…
Shetland ponies or something.
So there were some really good mascots and there were some kind of
rinky-dink ones around.
How do you feel that Pete better captures the spirit of his university for
the public than other mascots do?
Again, I think you go back to how it started. First of all, that it was based
on a real person who was chosen by the students by acclimation, if you
will. They saw this guy ride in the parade and they said, “Wait a minute.
That’s who we want our university to be modeled after from a logo
standpoint or a caricature standpoint.” So the students picked him. I
think that’s very appropriate. Secondly, Pistol Pete has evolved right
along with Oklahoma State University. If you look at the sophistication
and the position that OSU had when I graduated in 1981 and look at it
now, I think you can see that we are very well by our mascot, and so
OSU keeps getting better. Pistol Pete keeps getting better.
So were you involved in any competitions at New Mexico State or the
University of Wyoming where they had a similar-looking mascot, where
you appeared or they came here and their mascot appeared?
No, they used the same caricature as we did for awhile—the window
decal, if you will, of Pistol Pete. But their mascots never were up to par.
When I was working here at Oklahoma State, I went to New Mexico
State to consult on their mascot issues and really they ended up going a
completely different way which I thought was smart. I never really had
any contact with Wyoming.
Well it is interesting how similar they ended up being, although it seems
like in looking at it as an outsider, it seems like ours is so much more
well developed and more pervasive…
Well I think that’s exactly what happened. No, I think you’re exactly
right. I think that’s exactly what happened. I think it was kind of a three-way
tie there for awhile, but as OSU emerged and our Pistol Pete
became so known with OSU, I think they kind of backed off for that
reason, and I think Wyoming’s is Cowboy Joe.
Joe, right. I don’t ever remember what New Mexico State’s was. Well I
think it’s helped us, too, that we’ve been on the national stage a lot more
with our athletic program so Pistol Pete’s had a wider exposure than
those schools did. Are there any especially meaningful experiences that
you had as Pete?
Oh, geez, so many—really so many. I remember maybe the opening
football game, Sugar Ray Leonard, the famous boxer was a guest of
some people here, and he came down and I have a picture of us sparring
on the sidelines. In basketball, Coach Denny Crum and the Louisville
Cardinals had won the National Championship the year before and so
they came in as a game here in Gallagher Hall at the time. We were
down about eight or so at the half. Keep in mind this was before the
three-point line. We fought back and fought back and at the end of the
game, they had a one-point lead and we fouled them to go to the free
throw line hoping they would miss. There was like four seconds left, and
so they stepped to the line and sure enough missed both free throws.
Eddie “Half-Court” Hannon grabs the ball, launches it from just beyond
half court and hits the bucket and we knocked Louisville off by a point.
Of course the place erupted and I’m sitting and I’m looking through the
eyes of the head, right, and I thought, “Wow, that looked like it went in.”
Well about that time the crowd just literally picked me up and moved me
to half court and I went, “It did go in.” (Laughter) So that was probably,
of all the athletic events, that was probably my favorite because—great
upset, great day at Gallagher.
So what is that like watching a competition through that really sort of
limited point of view?
It’s a little tough. It’s kind of like putting two holes in a fence and
backing up about 12 inches and trying to watch the world through it.
One thing that we did develop in the chin of the head was—we’ve cut a
screen now. There’s a screen cut in the bottom of it and then it’s painted
over, but that way you can actually look straight down at your legs. The
reason we did that is because small children really don’t have a sense of
You know, a three-year-old will walk right up to your legs and so lots of
times there will be children all around. Well what would happen is you’d
see them and you’d think you were clear and you’d take a step and
you’d knock three three-year-olds to the ground. They’d go tumbling
down. So we cut the screen in and that, I think, saved some bumps and
bruises on our young children in Oklahoma. But that was one deal.
I always liked the work. Out from under the head, I probably worked—
I’m kind of a big ham, I like to speak—and so I got to emcee the pep
rallies and also that same senior year, I spoke at 20 honors banquets for
the Alumni Association, that same senior year (Laughs) so it was a blast.
Is there anything that you’re willing to share with us, like your most
My most embarrassing moment. Probably the only one that springs to
mind was we were playing at Nebraska in football. I want to say this was
like an October game. Well it was 75 degrees here in Stillwater when we
left and the only thing I took was a down vest to wear because I thought
it would be nice. Well we get to Lincoln and it was just colder than
expected. The night before, myself and a few of the other members of
the spirit squad had gone out and sold the program locally pretty hard,
and we weren’t feeling at our best that next morning (Laughter) and so
it’s about 20 degrees. I’m freezing. I’m not feeling so hot, and I’m just
kind of hanging in. There’s 80,000 screaming red Nebraska fans getting
ready to just beat our brains out.
I kind of slide over to the fence and pop the deal up and one of my
buddies comes up and I think it was Farmhouse Fraternity had taken
their pledge sneak and they were up at Lincoln. He said, “Hey, you want
something to drink?” I said, “Yeah, is it a coke?” “Yeah,” he said it was
coke. Well I take this big drink of coke, and it was coke with some
additives and I stood there for a minute and I thought, “I’m getting ready
to throw up in front of 80,000 people.” (Laughter) And finally I steadied
myself. It was probably not my most demonstrative game as Pistol Pete,
but that would probably be it.
But you did save yourself that embarrassment?
I did save myself. I hung on, yes.
Gosh. So you mentioned that Pete has a lot of interaction with children.
What is that like? I mean, there are children that are real excited to see
you and there are children—like I remember Pistol Pete came to my
house once as a promotion for, I think, softball, and my son was so
excited to see him and my daughter was absolutely terrified. How did
you deal with situations like that?
Happens almost every day, not just with children but people react to you
emotionally different, whether that’s your own fans sometimes and
certainly the opposing fans or children. You have to keep a really even
keel and you have to remember to make very slow motions, be very
inviting. Unfortunately, Pete’s face doesn’t move so he has that very
grim, firm expression on his face all the time and for young children,
you’re right, it can be very frightening.
A lot of times, the first thing you do is you kneel down just like we
would as an adult to greet a child. Don’t be as big to them. Get smaller if
you can and just don’t press the issue. We have seen people that keep on
pushing their kids for us and they’re screaming and crying, and at some
point, I would actually stand up and turn and walk away in a crowd. You
have to have an even keel and you have to always be really respectful to
the youngsters and, like I say, make sure you don’t run over them, too.
So is that something that you look for in Petes, when you go through the
interview process, is people that you think can do a good job with that?
Well, you’re certainly looking for that kind of thing, but quite honestly,
we’re very fortunate, and have been very fortunate, about the area of the
country that we’re located in; people here have great values. They do
mostly have a lick of sense. You can tell pretty quickly in most
interviews how a person was raised, what their values are, what they can
do. The techniques can all be taught. Everybody does it differently.
There’s no right or wrong way, but it’s kind of like their commitment,
you can see. Also you have to ask people how they take criticism
because sometimes you have to say, “Hey, look…” that’s tough when a
kid is that way—but mostly it’s common sense.
When you were Pete, were you ever criticized, in a public kind of way?
Not in a public way. I think the only criticism a fan ever gave me was—
this was back before people were real demonstrative at basketball
games, okay, and so everybody wouldn’t jump up behind the rail and
stuff. Well, I think we were playing Colorado or somebody, and I took
the OSU flag behind the goal and was waving it so the guy would try to
miss the free throw. I had some people come down and criticize me for
that, for being a bad sport, and of course today that would be commonly
accepted. They would be right in the sweet spot, but times have changed
and I’m not sure whether I would agree or not. I mean, I think we could
hearken back to some of those times and probably be better off in some
regards, but that was probably the only criticism I ever got.
Did you feel a special sense of responsibility representing OSU to the
Absolutely. I think it probably didn’t change me and my behavior, but I
was certainly always aware that, hey, I want to conduct myself in a
way—which again, I’m not sure Pete did that. I think that was probably
still all the way back to not wanting to disappoint my mom and dad I
mean, really is where it comes from. I think it certainly makes you aware
as it does, I think, with student athletes or anyone else here that’s
representing the university as a student.
What did being Pistol Pete at the time mean to you?
Fun really. I mean you’re in college, it meant fun and access. You had
access to pretty much do anything you wanted to do and have a lot of
fun doing it. I think one of the funniest episodes, I had a Jeep, so I could
just throw the back flap up and put the head in the back of the Jeep and it
was easy access, and so I drove a Jeep. We had a wonderful group of
OSU police officers. These guys were just great guys. Several went on
to be on the highway patrol and I lost track of some of them, but they
were just great guys. I didn’t have a parking pass to be on campus, but
they just let me kind of park wherever I wanted. They knew it was my
Jeep and so I’d just go because if I had to go to Home Ec or if I had to
go to Engineering, I needed to get close to the building and not be
walking all over the place, so they were really lenient.
Well one morning I had an early class at Ag Hall, and I got over there
and there weren’t any parking places. The parking place is here and then
a little grass thing came out and then parking places, so I just pulled my
Jeep up on the grass, on the median, and went to class. I’ll never
forget—the guy’s name is Coy Jenkins, great guy—came out and his
OSU police business card is on my windshield and he had written,
“Kurt. I know we cut you a lot of slack, but give me a break.” (Laughter)
I wish I had kept the card. But again, they were just so good to us and
wouldn’t let you get by with too much but would certainly work with
you and try to make everything easy.
Let you know you were pushing the limit.
Absolutely, as I was.
So what does it mean to you now to…
Oh, man—wow—I think you got me very emotional. My wife is from
the University of North Carolina. She’s a Tar Heel, and she loves her
Tar Heels. She’s very loyal…
They all do. (Laughs)
…but she told me one time, she said, “Kurt, you feel differently about
your school than I do.” I said, “What do you mean?” and she said, “Well
it just means more to you,” and—excuse me, I’m sorry. I said, “Jenny, it
changed my life.” I grew up blue collar on the south side of Oklahoma
City. I had a great childhood, great experience, went to a great high
school, Western Heights in Oklahoma City. But I came up here and I got
to do everything. You and I have talked about it, and it reshaped me.
Then, I know you’re talking today at our 50th reunion of Pistol Petes. We
had 53 of the former Petes—I think there’s 70 of us, and I think there’s
53 back this weekend…
Wow. I didn’t know it’s so many. That’s great.
Yeah, and what is really meaningful is when I see these guys. Dave
Treece from 1984, he was in our wedding in Carolina 12 years ago. He
lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife, Marcy. His wife Marcy sang
at our wedding. I’ve seen them one time since then, and so the
relationships with the Petes, the relationships with the people here at
Oklahoma State—it’s everything—I mean, it’s the best part of life. It is.
Well, sometimes I think it’s good that when we have experiences at a
young age that we don’t realize at the time how important they’re going
to be to us later on.
And I hope as we have hopefully matured (Laughter) that we continue to
be respectful of those things and to help grow the young people in those
deals and to lead them and support them and give to them those kind of
You talked about the fact that Dave Treece from 1984 was in your
wedding, do you keep in close contact with the Petes other than the ones
that were immediately around the time that you were here?
Oh, some—not a lot—you know, life goes on and life comes at everyone
pretty quickly and it’s hard to keep up even with those guys sometimes.
We e-mail and we try to get together if they’re gonna come in to see
their families for Thanksgiving or Christmas or if we’re traveling out in
their areas. I have probably kept in touch with some more of them
because I tried to get the reunion organized. But I think you kind of
cluster around the three or four guys that were before and after you, and
so I think at the reunion this weekend we’ll see that manifested, too.
When you were Pete, did you ever get in touch with any of the former
Petes to find out how they handled things or…
No, I didn’t get in touch with them, but they got in touch with me.
Several guys would come up and say, “Hey, I was Pete in ‘1973” or “I
was Pete in 1966” and again, the Alumni Club was not as well
structured. But yeah, I had great conversations with those guys and
they’d tell me funny stories and of course keep in mind again it was
“loose as a goose.” I mean, you kind of made it up as you went along at
the time and so they would always come talk to me and I began to get
some friendships started with them. You’re a little intimidated as a
I mean when somebody’s five years older than you are and you’re 21
That seems so young. (Laughs)
…that seems like an eternity.
That’s right. So do you think that there’s any kind of a collective legacy
that the former Petes have left the university?
In what respect?
I guess anything beyond this really great tradition of having this
mascot—is there anything else that you think that you guys brought to
Hopefully that we have continued year after year—and I know it doesn’t
sound like a high bar without incident, but I hope that we brought
integrity to the mascot and I guess a serviceability to the mascot so it
doesn’t have to be on some administrator’s radar screen all the time.
There’s no concern and worry about it. Part of that goes to Dave Martin
and his wife, Toni, who have kind of been the sponsors—to Tracey
Wittwer and her husband, Dan—very value-based couples. We couldn’t
ask for any better adult supervision leadership over a bunch of college
students year after year after year. I think that if you’re really looking for
the answer to that question, I’d probably slide that over to those sponsors
who have really led the way and continued to guide with not just their
words but their actions and how they live their lives and those kinds of
things. I think that has really served our spirit groups, and especially
Pistol Pete, very well.
I asked you a few minutes ago about what does having been Pistol Pete
mean to you now, but has it influenced your life in any particular way?
In every way.
In every way?
In every way. It is part and parcel of who I am now. It is my primary
connection back to Oklahoma State, even though I was a professional
here as well. It really let me kick start my career and a trilogy of things
that happened. Every place that I have ever worked—from the
university, I left here and went to Phillips Petroleum, left there and came
to Stillwater National Bank and have been there ever since. All of those
were connections I made back starting when I was Pistol Pete and then
continuing on at Oklahoma State. So I can’t separate it anymore quite
honestly. I think it’s a theme of my life a little bit.
For people just meeting you, what is their reaction when they find out
that you were a former Pete?
It depends. Oklahoma State people are prone to hug me. (Laughter)
Others think, “Well, that’s neat.” They don’t understand the uniqueness
of our mascot here. Again, I’ll hearken back to my wife. She was
working in a dental office in Oklahoma—in Edmond. Chuck Hetrick
was a wrestler here, a wrestling family from Oklahoma State. He’s a
dentist in Edmond and when we first came back to Edmond, she would
come home and say, “What is the deal with you being Pistol Pete?” And
this is, you know, 20 years later. I’d say, “What do you mean?” She’d
say, “Well everybody that comes in, as soon as Beverly or Chuck say,
‘Oh, and her husband was a Pistol Pete’ they hug me!” (Laughter) She
said, “You know, at Carolina, nobody cares who the Ram is or at ECU,
nobody cares who Petey Pirate is.” She said, “Nobody cares. It’s no big
deal.” I said, “Well, you know, it really is kind of peculiar here that it’s
always been a big deal to be our mascot.” I said, “I don’t really know of
any other school that anybody cares who portrayed those mascots, but
for some reason it’s always been a big deal here. ” I don’t know how
that got started, quite honestly, that everybody always thinks that’s a
really neat deal.
Yeah, that is interesting. What would you tell somebody that was
thinking about trying out for Pete?
I would first say, make sure that your grades are in order. Make sure that
you have really good time management habits. Number two, get ready
for a ride of your lifetime for a year in terms of activity and events, those
kinds of things. But the thing I would tell them is that you won’t
understand how important this will be to you maybe ‘til you’re out of
school for five or six years and then it will be even more important to
you perhaps than when you did the work and portrayed that as a student.
It’s just a long legacy now. I mean, we’re 50 years into it and I hope that
someone is watching you and I at the 100 year reunion.
That would be great.
“Wow, look how weird they look!” (Laughs)
The next question—I think that the answer, from everything you’ve told
me, is so obvious but—reflecting back, would you do it again?
I would. I think the question for me would be perhaps, would I do it
more than one year, and I don’t think I would. At the time when I did it
and it was over, oh, I wished I had another year—I wish I’d done this as
a junior and then got it again as a senior. We’ve had several guys do it
two years. I think maybe we’ve even had some guys do it three years,
but a lot of guys have done it two years. That was a special, magical,
great year for me and I’m glad it was one year. I would absolutely do it
again, but I probably wouldn’t do it two years.
Is there anything that you wish that I had asked you about your
experience as Pistol Pete or in this interview that I haven’t?
Oh, I probably just, “You were Pistol Pete in 1981? Gosh you don’t look
that old!” (Laughter)
Gosh, and you don’t. (Laughter)
No, I can’t think of anything, but I appreciate your time.
I appreciate your willingness to sit down and talk today. I know you
have a really busy schedule this Homecoming, so this has been great.
It’s gonna be a fun weekend.
It is. It always is.
------- End of interview -------
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