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: Jerry Gill
Transcriber: Victoria Massey
Editors: Jacob Sherman, Latasha Wilson, Juliana Nykolaiszyn
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 Matt Ketchum is
unrestricted. The interview agreement was signed on October 17, 2008.
An Oral History Project of the OSU Library
About Matt Ketchum…
Matt Ketchum grew up in Stillwater and remembers “riding my bike all over the OSU
campus, especially Lewis Field and Theta Pond.” He enrolled at OSU in 1985 and was
recognized as a “Top 10 Freshman Man” the following spring. He was a member of Sigma
Nu fraternity and was active in Engineering Student Council and Construction Management
Society. A good high school athlete, he participated in OSU intramural sports. Matt worked
at DuPree’s and recalls “Garth Brooks was selling sneakers at DuPree’s and singing at
Matt explained that he “always knew who Pistol Pete was” but “never thought I would
become Pete one day.” However, he did serve as OSU’s Pistol Pete mascot during the 1988-
89 school year. He graduated in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in construction management
and went to work for Manhattan Construction Company in Dallas, Texas. In 1992 Matt
moved to Alaska and has continued to work there in construction management positions,
currently serving as area manager for Granite Construction Company.
Matt married Tammy Batterton in 1998, and they have three children Kolten, Kaden and
Kendall, “who all love OSU and Pistol Pete.” His father and brother, Daniel are graduates of
OSU. With his ever-present smile, great sense of humor and exuberant personality, Matt has
been a role model for the Petes who have followed.
An Oral History Project of the OSU Library
Oral History Interview
Interviewed by Jerry Gill
October 17, 2008
My name is Jerry Gill. The date is October 17th, 2008. I’m interviewing
Matt Ketchum, a former Pistol Pete mascot in the ConocoPhillips OSU
Alumni Center on the OSU campus. This interview is for the O-STATE
Stories Project and is part of the Oklahoma Oral Research Program.
Matt, welcome back to the 50 year reunion of the Pistol Pete mascots.
Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Are you looking forward to it?
Yeah, I am. It’s going to be a great weekend.
I’ve already interviewed a couple guys already and they’re really
pumped for it.
You live in Alaska now and don’t come back that often, right?
But it must be fun to get back and meet with all the guys.
Yeah, it’s interesting with the internet now, it’s almost like I can live
here because I’m on it every day. My homepage is the Oklahoma State
alumni page and so I read the Daily Oklahoma sports page dang near
everyday but it is great to get back, the first time in this facility, anxious
to see that and see the stadium.
Now this is special, this is the 50 year reunion of the first time that Pete
wore the mâché head on the field, is that right?
Yes, the 50th anniversary when we adopted the Pistol Pete mascot which
is from Frank Eaton’s resemblance.
Someone else reminded me that this is the 50th anniversary and, sort of
unfortunate, that Frank Eaton, the real Pistol Pete, died in 1958 and this
is the 50 year anniversary of his death.
Yep, that’s right.
You grew up in Stillwater, so you’re a Stillwater boy. Can you remember
when you were young, some of your earliest memories, what was your
first memory you have of Pistol Pete?
Yeah, the first memories I remember—I mean this is a college town and
everything revolves around the University, even when you’re growing
up here as an elementary school kid. I remember going to the football
games and I remember parking at Aqua Mart over in that area with my
parents and walking to the game, either having a pre-game somewhere,
tailgate at someone’s house and then going to Aqua Mart, walking to the
game. In the east end zone is where all the kids were; that was before the
coach’s building was there and obviously before Gallagher-Iba had
expanded. We didn’t watch much of the game, we ran around and
played football, you know, with paper cups that we would stuff in each
other. I remember seeing Pistol Pete on the sidelines, was always a
fixture in any of the events we went to whether it was wrestling or
basketball or something else, but football is when I really first
Did you think he was a pretty cool dude?
Oh yeah, I thought he was great. (Laughter) I was always intrigued by
that. And then when I was in junior high a guy that I knew from
Stillwater named Don Giles became Pistol Pete. I just knew him from
Stillwater High. He was a pretty good athlete, a pretty good student and
he knew my older brothers. I remember when I was in junior high and he
became Pistol Pete when he was at school and I remember thinking that
was a possibility at the time.
And Don is coming back supposedly.
So Stillwater boys are a little different. Did you have any choice about
coming to OSU?
Yeah, I did. My father did go here and my oldest brother, Daniel, was
going here, but I did not want to go here during my junior high,
freshman and sophomore years. I was interested in going somewhere
else. I did go to a couple years of high school in Alaska, so I was
thinking east coast. A lot of kids in Alaska go to out of state to college
and I was somewhat influenced from that. But I came back to Stillwater
for my junior and senior year in high school and really kind of fell in
love with the school and then realized that the University activities are
much different than the community activities and it was a pretty great
time. I think it was when I went to a fraternity party that my brother was
in and realized there’s more to this than I had seen in high school!
You may not want to tell some of those stories. (Laughter) Just kidding.
Tell us about your OSU experience part from your Pistol Pete
experience. What were some of the other things you were engaged in,
some of the other activities you were a part of?
Other than Pistol Pete? Well, I was hugely influenced by my brother that
went here and I really kind of followed him—went and joined the same
fraternity that he did. He had excelled academically and had a great
social experience, had lots of friends with common interests and so I
kind of naturally fit into that. Really followed him and only had, you
know, your son was the only other classmate that had joined the
fraternity, the same one that I had. But it was guys with common
interests and so my best friends now are still some of those guys—Kent
Walstad, he was a Pistol Pete the year after I was. Gary Johnson, Jeff
Wood, Greg Tontz, and then guys from really all over the state and so I
was inspired by some of their stories of where they’d come from. Some
smaller towns, some bigger towns, and so I got involved in stuff at the
I knew what I wanted to major in, which was construction management,
and I declared that as an incoming freshman and graduated with that and
still am in the business, but I got involved with the student council and
engineering and got involved with some of the academic fraternities that
they had for sophomores and stuff. Actually was named Top Ten
Freshman my freshman year which was significant for me because I was
starting to come into my own academically, which was great. And I was
involved with intramurals and involved with Homecoming and stayed
involved with student council basically my whole time that I was here. I
was involved with some of the construction management society stuff
and I was actually the Interfraternity Council Rush chairman a year. So I
served to represent the whole Greek community rather than just the one I
What was interesting about when you’re a freshman coming in, you’re
surrounded with new friends and that’s kind of your nucleus and the
older you get from your junior and senior year, you realize and start
expanding those friends and it really starts preparing you for your career
to where you’re not so biased to just your little group. You realize that
you’ll develop friends all over campus. And then I was Pistol Pete my
senior year and that was a great experience.
You tried out in your junior year?
Yeah, tried out the spring of my junior year and made it and it really
started that summer, actually about midsummer. But that summer I had
accepted an internship with a construction company in California and
that was the year, or one of the years, that we had sent both of the
relatively new heads back to get them re-detailed. I was in Orange
County, California and so I got to go meet the guy that had worked
basically his whole career at Disneyland that had developed and made
the heads the first time. So we had them all touched up and it was really
fun to go meet him and for him to meet someone from Oklahoma State
because he would just—the head would get sent to him, he’d work on
them, send them back and his contact was with Dave Martin at the
Athletic Department. So here I was, someone that was going to put the
head on for the next year, and we had a great couple of visits. Then it
started as soon as I got back, I started making appearances and it was
fantastic. I went to every single football game that year with the
exception of going to Tokyo.
Well Matt, picking up on your head experience a little bit. Did the guy
work with Disney or was he an independent contractor?
He was an independent contractor, at least at the time. I think at some
point he had worked for Disney and I believe his name was Bob
Johnson; there was actually something in one of the OSU magazines
I’m going to ask you a little bit about the uniform. Let’s start with the
head; we’ve seen the big huge head. What’s under it?
What’s inside there, there’s a suspended hard hat braced without a top in
it, and then it’s got pads on the shoulders. So it rests on your shoulders
and then you’ve got this hard hat that’s got padding on the front and the
back and so it sits like a halo on your forehead and on the back of your
head and it weighs 45 pounds. So you’re not very agile in it. And then
there are small screens where the eyes are, so you can see through two
little wholes, right there, and then there’s a screen in the chin, so you can
see your feet because often times its really hard to climb stairs, you’re
going to step down on something, you need to look down, but you can’t
see much in there. It’s really hard to not talk. Pistol Pete doesn’t talk and
people will come up to you and ask you a question that needs a response
verbally but you’ve got to somehow respond to them without speaking
because they couldn’t hear you anyway.
What about the rest of your outfit?
The rest of it? When I was a Pistol Pete, we were pretty much outfitted
by Tener’s. It’s a western store; at least there was one in Oklahoma City
at the time. They hooked us up with four or five pairs of Wranglers and
a new pair of cowboy boots, a new belt and belt buckle, four or five
white button up cowboy shirts, and then a black vest and that was pretty
much the apparel uniform of Pistol Pete. Also had a couple of .357 six
shooter revolvers and a double barrel shot gun, so part of Pistol Pete had
to go to the campus police department.
Yeah and get some of that. A little bit of training. I’m sure they’re
getting a lot more nowadays than they used to at the time. I had kind of
grown up around guns a little bit, so I wasn’t intimidated by that, but
that’s where we had to go get our blanks and they were always fine with
Pistol Pete, so that was the apparel and I kept all of that stuff with me,
the head was in my room at the fraternity house.
Did you keep your outfit? I know you didn’t keep the head, but did you
get to keep the rest of the outfit?
We didn’t keep, and I guess I didn’t mention the chaps, had a bright
orange pair of chaps which is almost really, other than Pete’s head,
probably his signature outfit is his bright orange chaps. We didn’t keep
those, but we basically kept everything else, all the shirts and the boots
and the pants and all of that and so those were great. I probably still have
some of my pants. (Laughter) I couldn’t fit into them, but I still probably
have some of the Wranglers that I got from Tener’s.
One of the other neat things at the time, was one of the local car
dealerships had donated a truck and it was an extended cab pick-up truck
with a shell on it, so when we had to travel with the head, I mean, it’s
large, it fits in a three by three crate. Most of the time we didn’t travel
with it in the crate, and it did get bunkered up a little bit loading it up in
trucks and cars and stuff, but occasionally on trips, when I’d go to
parades in different communities in the state, I was able to take that and
the gas was paid for. They take care of Pistol Pete, that’s for sure.
Matt, stepping back just a little bit, you waited until your senior year,
what was your decision to finally decide to be Pistol Pete?
Well, I was dating a pom pom girl at the time, (Laughter) so I got to see
more about what Pete did. The guys in front of me were Lance Mills and
Jack Franks and so I’d kind of seen them and some of their activities, got
to see what they were doing. You’re ambassadors, you’re not a
cheerleader; you do lead a cheer occasionally, but it’s a different type of
school spirit. I’m a “true-to-your school” kind of guy and I wanted to do
something like that—that kind of fit what I wanted to do. It wasn’t
maybe as athletic as doing some of the other stuff, but I certainly wanted
to do that. I got interested in it, talked to a few people about it and
actually went, I think, to Jack Franks and borrowed the head one time,
went over to the Colvin Center and got in front of the mirrors and got
comfortable with it on to see if I was really going to like doing it and
did. Then tried out in this interview process.
Can you tell us a little bit about that process?
Yeah, I believe it was a formal application that we had to submit and
they advertise in the O’Colly. That was how information was spread in
those days. In the late ’80s, you didn’t go to the internet and find out
when the Pete try-outs were, but found out about it in the O’Colly. Filled
out the application and I think there were probably only about ten,
maybe twelve guys that tried out when I did. The first thing that we did
was an interview process and it was an interview with Dave Martin who
was an associate athletic director, and then four or five former Pistol
Petes that were either working for the University still or were in close
proximity community-wise in some other vocation. They would come in
and do an interview, so they wanted to see if you were a decent guy,
they wanted you to know what the job entailed in being an ambassador
and being a good guy and being able to make good choices and
representing the university, particularly when you’re Pete and also when
you don’t have the head on, too.
Did you have to act out some things in the interview?
Yeah, and then after that, they wanted to put you in a couple of
situations and so—really they realized they wanted you to do some
acting, or do a situation without the head on because often times, you
can get heckled without it on and you’ve got to be able to react
positively, or you’ve got to be able to speak to somebody without the
head on. So they asked me to do a skit with—you had to prepare
something, and you knew this before without the head on—then they put
you in a situation with the head on.
Do you remember the first events you went to as Pete? Can you share
some of your memories?
Yeah, I think one of the first ones that I remember specifically was
really outside the athletics because I think the first one I went to—I think
it might have been freshman orientation, and then the rest of them were
athletic stuff. But the first one I remember I really enjoyed, it was a
Halloween contest. I think it might have been for kids, so I think it was
in the early evening of Halloween at Eskimo Joe’s. So there were 20
kids that were dressed up for this Halloween competition and Pistol Pete
was going to be there and that was probably what brought some of them
there. Pistol Pete got to pick which kid had the best outfit on and the best
costume and I picked this little kid that was dressed up like a werewolf.
And I remember, it just made his day. It was great and I remember that. I
do have a littler picture that his mom had taken and given to me, so I
especially remember that one as one of the first things.
One of the great things I got to do was I got to go to—they have a
mascot ski invitational in Winter Park, Colorado and it’s hosted by the
University of Colorado. We were in the Big Eight at the time, they
certainly invited all of the Big Eight mascots, but there was probably
200 mascots there, and it was a big ski event. I was a skier having lived
in Alaska—an alpine skier. I wanted to go to the event; I raised a little
bit of money, got the university to help cover things—I think my airfare
was like $200—times have really changed now, I think it’s significantly
more than that. But I got the crate and packed the head up and went
during school in probably February to Winter Park and skied with the
head on and all of that. It was pretty fun.
I bet it was a bit of a tough thing! (Laughter)
It was a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be. (Laughter)
You mentioned the Halloween party, we think of Pistol Pete obviously at
athletic events, probably makes a dozen appearances a year, but more of
the personal appearances, can you share some of the outside events,
places you went as Pete?
Yeah, one of my favorite things I did is I went to Pond Creek,
Oklahoma. It’s a little bitty old town up kind of north central; I think it’s
close to Alva. I always remember seeing it as Pond Creek-Hunter
because they had to combine two towns to make up a football team.
They played eight man football. One of my buddies in the fraternity
house name is Van Shea Ivan. Great OSU alum, he’s from that
hometown, parents both big OSU alums. I think his brother now is the
head trainer here, the sports medical doctor, Val Gene. Anyway, he
wanted Pistol Pete to come to his homecoming, or come to his county’s
parade, in the worst way and I said, “Sure, we’ll work it out and I’ll
make it.” Well I went up there and they rolled out the orange carpet for
me. (Laughter) I mean Pistol Pete, he was the main event of the parade
and everybody loved it. The Ivans took fantastic care of me and I
remember that specifically because it was a personal connection there
and then getting to see another small town in Oklahoma that really
cherished their heritage, which was farming, and also really cherished
Pistol Pete. I remember walking in a lot of those long parades and my
feet getting tired in the cowboy boots.
You made probably a hundred appearances a year?
Yeah, probably more than that. There’s two Pistol Pets each year, at
least there was when I was Pete. We’ve always claimed that Pistol Pete
makes about 400 appearances a year. So each guy would probably do
200. Occasionally, sometimes, you’re paid. Some of the parades would
pay Pistol Pete and that money would go to the athletic director or to the
associate athletic director. Occasionally we’d get a stipend that would
help offset some of our books and some tuition. I probably didn’t collect
more than $500 over the whole time, but I didn’t have many expenses
Matt, you’re pretty active in other things on the campus, how did you
balance these two lives?
Well, Pistol Pete always came first. There’s no doubt about that. I
remember missing some intramural sports activities. You’re on a team
and you’ve got a commitment to that, but Pistol Pete came first. It was
my senior year and I think the students involvement is pretty heavy
when you get started and some of my campus involvement did
somewhat taper off as I get older and closer to graduation, you’re not as
involved with maybe some of the Homecoming events that our fraternity
was in and you’re starting to look towards your career. I was doing the
Pistol Pete thing. I don’t recall it being much of a challenge juggling
some of my other activities and that. Academics, we were able to study
on the trips and what have you.
You had the chance to view [Pistol Pete] when you were kid. What were
your expectations? Looking at it, your thoughts and your experiences as
your time as Pete? How did those differ?
Well, looking back on it, it’s one of the best things that I did. I’m super
proud that I did it. It’s funny, where I live now, people find out—I mean,
I’m in Pac-10 country in Alaska. They’re not too familiar with the Big
XII other than our football teams. When they find out that I was a
mascot, it gets a chuckle. (Laughter) Most people think of a mascot as
maybe some purple chicken doing back flips off of a mini tramp. So I
get a chance to talk about the heritage of Pistol Pete and how it was
named after a real man, Frank Eaton. Another thing that is interesting in
Alaska is there are a lot of people from Wyoming up there. The
University of Wyoming has Pistol Pete as their mascot and has the same
caricature as our Pistol Pete, so does New Mexico State. They call him
Also talking to my kids about Pete. My kids see Pistol Pete on TV and
they think it’s me and it’s great! (Laughter) Just driving over from Tulsa
this morning, my son asked me “Dad, were you ever on TV?” and I said,
“Well, sure I was.” So they think it’s pretty neat. My youngest son asked
his mom, “Do you think I could be Pistol Pete someday?” (Laughter) So
we got to talk about that and just today coming over, they’re pretty
excited about it and this is going to be a fantastic weekend because my
kids are going to be indoctrinated into Oklahoma State, which I love
dearly. I hope my kids—they can go to University of Alaska-Anchorage
or they can go to Oklahoma State. That’s their choices if Dad’s paying
Picking up your conversation about the Frank Eaton Pistol Pete. Was it
special to you that OSU’s mascot was named after a real historical
figure rather than some mythical character or something like that?
If we had still been the Oklahoma State Tigers—like we used to be
Oklahoma A&M Tigers and were orange and black because we were
“the Princeton on the Prairie” and so our mascot came from Princeton
University and so did our colors—I probably wouldn’t have done it. But
yeah, it was special for me, the heritage of Frank Eaton, and I didn’t
know about that until I started researching to see if it was something I
wanted to do and it was intriguing. There are artifacts around campus
about Frank Eaton. He was even teaching a class on Oklahoma history
and was showing off his gun and his gun discharged. I think one of his
bullets is in one of the classrooms in the Student Union basement
somewhere. It was pretty neat to know that. And Pistol Pete does—he’s
not a goofy mascot. He’s a cool mascot and he’s a calm, respectable
mascot with guns, and he does represent the rugged old west and yeah, I
really like that.
For OSU fans and for Oklahoma he represents, you mentioned, the
rugged west. The pioneer and the image ties in. Picking up on that a
little bit, when you portray Pistol Pete as the mascot, were those
character traits you tried to emulate some that the real Frank Eaton
Well, you know, probably not. I wasn’t able to study some of his
physical characteristics because I think he was a little bit shorter than I
was. I noticed that some guys do, you can tell that there’s different Petes
when you’ve got the head on. But I’m already pigeon-toed and
bowlegged (Laughter) so I didn’t have to act too much, but mainly
you’re trying—you’ve got to make expressions and you’ve got to
express yourself with your hands and maybe the way you walk and
waving the towel, but there’s not a whole heck of a lot else Pistol Pete
can do. Shaking hands—if I had a dollar for every time a kid came up
and stuck his hand out and said, “Pistol Pete, sign my hand! Sign my
hand!” I would always carry a sharpie and sign his signatures and unless
you hold your hand right here you’re just signing Pistol Pete. (Laughter)
Did you have Pete’s swagger?
Oh yeah, oh yeah.
His bowlegged swagger?
Bowlegged—that’s not too hard for me. (Laughter) Some of my friends
call me “up hill.” I always look like I’m walking uphill, anyway!
Matt, can you share some especially meaningful experiences as your
time as Pete? You already shared a couple of them, but some other
things that you really remember?
Yeah, a guy that I work with wanted me to come to his daughter’s
birthday. I worked at Dupree Sports. He was one of the managers there
and it was his daughter’s birthday. What I remember is how pleased—
she was happy to see Pete and all that and it was a highlight for her, but
how pleased her parents were that I took the time out as a college
student, as a representative of the University to be able to do that. They
were obviously working on the periphery of the University and weren’t
working directly for it, but obviously saw that as a benefit and were
happy that I was able to come as Pistol Pete. When you’re going to a lot
of those events, you spend probably 75 percent of the time without the
head on. So I remember going to that.
My mother was an elementary school teacher here and I went to her
class probably three or four times throughout the year because she
wanted me to hit every single class that came through. So I’d get to
wander in Skyline Elementary out there where I met Derek, I met your
son out there where he used to go. So going to that and seeing how
pleased my mom was and how proud she was that I was doing it. It
wasn’t necessarily any type of accomplishment that I had done, but it
was just those people’s admiration and appreciation for, not only for
what I was doing, but for the university as well and what it represented.
You were talking about the kids, is that pretty special when you go to the
birthday parties and the schools and get notes back from someone?
The kids love Pistol Pete and that probably is a lot of kid’s first memory
or their first impression of Oklahoma State is Pistol Pete, if they’ve
gotten the chance to see Pistol Pete up close or gotten the chance to
shake his hand or get a picture signed from him. I certainly realized that.
I’m kind of like that, I like little kids anyway. I’m coaching now. That’s
my joy—seeing kids improve and seeing kids sparkling eyes light up,
and they certainly do when they see Pistol Pete. My kids love it too and
so I’m excited I’m going to get to put the head on tonight (Laughter) at
the hoops event. They’re going to have a Pistol Pete from each of the
five decades, the last five decades. So I’m going to represent the ’80’s
and see if I still got it! (Laughter) That’s going to be fun.
That’s great. Let’s get into some special memories and be honest here.
Give me a couple of embarrassing moments that you had as Pete.
One of the embarrassing moments was I was at the competition where
all the cheerleaders and the mascots go together at the end of the
summer, prior to the school year starting; it’s a competition with all of
the other universities and it’s training. So the mascots had their other
little events, but when the competition came together, your whole school
represented themselves, the cheerleaders with Pistol Pete and the pom
pom girls with Pistol Pete. Well, I had learned to spin the .357 revolver
on my hand pretty good, but when I spun it I always wanted to spin it
and then shoot it real quickly and so I thought, (Laughter) “Every time I
spin it takes me a little time to get it cocked in order to shoot it, so I
think I’ll just cock it before I spin it on my finger.” It’s just firing a
blank, so if it’s dark there’s a flame that comes out the end of it. Well, I
cocked the gun and I spun it. Well, it went off as I was spinning it and it
shot right up my arm and I would have sworn that my arm was on fire,
although I had no idea to look cause I couldn’t see. One of the other
Pistol Petes was watching and noticed that I had done that, that it went
off as I was spinning it and he could see that I was trying to put the fire
out—I thought my arm was on fire! (Laughter)
So that was pretty embarrassing. There was another time where I was
with the gun again and a little kid—I was standing watching an event
and a little kid got the courage to finally, probably three years old, to
walk up to Pistol Pete. He walked right up to me and was in my blind
spot, I couldn’t see him here, and I couldn’t see him out of my chin. But
he was, I mean he was two feet from me. Well, I got the gun out and
started spinning the gun and it was going about an inch in front of this
little kid’s face and finally someone came up and grabbed my arm. I put
it in and got it to where I could see this kid and he was still standing
there just petrified (laughter) because I had spun—I’m sure his parents
were probably wondering, “What in the world is going on?” So I was a
little bit embarrassed, but what’s so great about being Pete is your face
turns red but I had to express myself with my hands over Pistol Pete’s
face. But those were pretty tough times.
Matt, being Pistol Pete, being that persona for Oklahoma State, did that
carry some sort of special responsibility with it?
Yeah, I certainly saw it as an OSU ambassador. I was even trying to
explain to my kids today what it takes to be Pistol Pete. Well, I was
explaining it to them that you have to be an ambassador and my wife
was laughing. Because they’re nine and six, well they don’t know what
an ambassador is. But I took on that responsibility as being an OSU
ambassador and I enjoyed speaking to alums and went to several alumni
events and they’re always interested in who’s the guy under the head
and I liked that. I certainly saw it as a networking and marketing
opportunity opening for myself, “Hey I’m a senior. I’m looking for a
job. I’m in construction management. You know, if you’ve got a
construction company, I’m looking for work.” So I enjoyed doing that
and I certainly do now, its really special to me to tell somebody that I
was Pistol Pete. Everybody gets a little chuckle out of it, but they think
and shake their heads and, well that’s pretty neat. I really like it.
Did you feel a special sense of responsibility, sort of what you did and
what you didn’t do in public about your actions?
Yes, certainly, I mean a lot of people knew that I was Pistol Pete, at least
those that were my friends. So yeah, in a sense I was still Pete even
when I didn’t have the head on and when I wasn’t with the Spirit Group.
So yeah, I took that on and represented the University even without it,
too. And I was looking for a job heavy too. (Laughter)
All the Pete’s are coming back together.
Yeah, there’s 53 coming back.
Wonderful. Is there a special bond between the former Petes?
Yeah, there is. My special bond is my best friend was Pistol Pete the
year after I was. His name is Kent Walstad. I think he’s going to
interview here. Well I met him—we’d never met ‘til college and we’ve
been best friends for 20 plus years. He was Pete the year I was. We are
the biggest OSU alums outside of Oklahoma, that’s for sure. He’s in
Grand Rapids, Michigan. I talked to him three times the other night
during the Missouri game. He was watching it. We always know where
each other is. I remember when we finally beat OU 12 to nothing. I think
it was in ’96 or something. He actually was living in Alaska at the time.
We got together and celebrated that. But yeah we’ve got a special bond
from our friendship and from Pete for sure. He’s bringing his whole
family down. And just knowing Kirk Carter and those guys. Coming
back for Homecoming I always know that there’s a former Pistol Pete
float and there’s always open arms and usually there’s a guy that was a
former Pistol Pete in the Alumni Association working there. But yeah,
it’s a great way to connect, that’s for sure.
Looking back, has being Pistol Pete influenced your life a little bit
It probably has just from knowing that—not only did I volunteer my
time as a senior, I juggled some academic stuff. It wasn’t much of a
burden at all and it was really fun and I got a benefit out of it. But it was
really my first experience to an extended amount of service. It’s really
kind of like when someone starts to learn about service, whether it’s in
your community or for your state or for your school or whatever. The
more you give, the more you receive, and so I really enjoyed that aspect
of it and it was really my first lesson of an extended period of service—
the return has been the rest of my life. So I’ve used that and other things
when I’ve been asked to serve. If it’s going to interfere with my school
work or my social life or now it’s going to interfere with family life or
something, I realize that the benefits far outweigh any sacrifice you
might have to weigh within the service. So that’s kind of how I look at it
now. It was a time where I could serve my university with my time and
the return as far exceeded what I put into it in ’88 and ’89.
What would you tell an OSU student today that is thinking about being
Pistol Pete? What would you tell him?
I would strongly encourage him. I would say that most of the time
they’re traveling with the pom pom girls (Laughter) and that’s a great
benefit. You have to take care of them, so… But no, it’s a great
experience; you get to interact with really everybody across Oklahoma.
You get to travel. That’s always fun as a college student. You get to go
to the athletic events. I’ve gotten to meet coaches and I got to be pretty
good friends with Eddie Sutton when they came and played basketball in
Alaska a couple of years ago. All he knew was, “Hey, a former Pistol
Pete lives there. So he must be a good alum.” I’d strongly encourage it.
It was a great experience. It was great to serve the University. And it’s
been great for me 20 years later.
All over again, would you do it again?
Absolutely. Absolutely. I’d probably do it more than just one year of my
college career. Absolutely.
Close this with a question. How do you hope they remember Matt
Ketchum as Pistol Pete?
I hope they remember me as an ambassador of the University. That I
upheld a positive image of Oklahoma State with and without the head
on. I hope they know that I bleed black and orange. I know that
everybody in Alaska does. They often get OSU mixed up with Oregon
State, but people are starting to learn that orange and black OSU is
Oklahoma State. I hope they remember me for that. I know they know
I’m a true-to-your school type of guy and I’m loyal. Kind of like our
alma mater song is, and I ride for the brand.
Last question. Briefly catch yourself in the life after you left OSU.
I took a job in Dallas, Texas with Manhattan Construction Company. A
great Oklahoma construction company. They were out of Muskogee at
the time, but I think they’re in Tulsa now. Went and worked in Dallas
for about two and a half years. I went to a couple of years of high school
in Alaska and I always wanted to get back there, and finally did in ’92.
My plan was to go up there for about four or five years and work and
maybe work part time. Work on the pipeline and work some
construction jobs, work seasonal and then eventually make it back to this
area, but that was 17 years ago now and I’m loving it. I’ve got three
kids. I met my wife up there even though she’s from Arkansas. So when
we come down here we’re able to travel in between Oklahoma and
Arkansas and kind of visit everybody.
I’m in construction management which was what my degree was in. I
have worked for the same firm now for 17 years. It’s called Wilder
Construction Company. We just got purchased and the company is now
called Granite Construction Company out of Watsonville, California.
We’re heavy highway civil contractors, so we’re the creating and paving
contractor in Alaska. We ski and play hockey and fish a lot and I
brought down a bunch of smoked salmon that everybody in Oklahoma
loves. So life is good. I’m living the dream as far as I’m concerned.
So the last question is kind of political. You’re hometown is…? And who
else lives in that town?
Sarah Palin (Laughter) went to high school with my wife. She was one
year ahead of my wife. A 1982 graduate of Wasilla High School and I
live in Wasilla right now. In my neighborhood, Sarah’s parents live a
couple of blocks over—Chuck and Sally. Great people. You take them
and put them in Oklahoma and you’d never know the difference. Great
people and I’ve seen CNN and MSNBC and TNN, all these news
stations going to the Heath’s house and so, pretty funny. And she’s a
great lady too.
Kind of turn things around in your hometown quite a bit? It’s on the
Yeah, it has. Yeah, Wasilla is on the map, but it’s still just a couple of
stop lights and we just got our first Target, opened last week there. So,
you know, we’re big time now. We’ve had a Wal-Mart for years. But
it’s a small town. I like it. It’s a spread out, sprawled-type of community
but it’s nestled in between these mountains in Alaska and rivers. About
40 miles north of Anchorage; it’s a great place to live and I’m anxious to
have my kids grow up there.
Well, is there anything that was left out? I know you want to get back to
your kids and everything, but anything else you’d like to mention?
No, I don’t think so.
Well I appreciate it very much.
And you have a great weekend.
I know I will. I know I will.
------- End of interview -------
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