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Monday, May 11, 2020

Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton

Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton (October 26, 1860 – April 8, 1958)
When Francis Boardman Eaton was eight years old, his family joined the rush to Kansas, establishing their homestead eight miles west of Carbondale, KS. One night, shortly after arriving, his father was gunned down by a gang of lawless Southerners who called themselves “the Regulators.”
Encouraged and taught by his father’s friend and neighbor, young Frank learned to shoot with a Dragoon cap and ball pistol. He became proficient enough that he could shoot the head off a rattlesnake with either hand by merely “point firing”—not taking the time to aim.
In 1875 Frank went to Fort Gibson where the 6th Cavalry was stationed. When he outshot everyone at the fort, the commander, Colonel Copinger, gave him a badge for his marksmanship and the nickname “Pistol Pete.”
In 1887, he learned that two of his father’s killers were living just southwest of Webbers Falls, Indian Territory. Eaton rode into the clearing where the cabin was located and saw one grabbing a rifle on the porch. Frank gave the outlaw time to aim, but he was still no match for Frank’s fast draw. He found the other man working cattle in a nearby clearing. Eaton shot him off his horse with “two forty-five slugs through his breast”. Both of the outlaws were known cattle thieves and, for his actions against them, Eaton was hired as a detective by the Cattlemen’s Association.
Photo from @exploringmissouriozarks
Eaton then set off to find one of the men’s brother who had been helping sell the stolen cattle in Missouri. The night before he arrived, the outlaw was killed for stealing a jack from the bottom of a deck in a poker game. Eaton attended his funeral just to make sure he was dead. While there, he learned that two more of his father’s killers had a small ranch in the Ozarks. Eaton found the brothers at home and challenged them to a duel, killing both of them only feet apart.
Eaton then got wind that the last killer was tending bar in Albuquerque. With the help of Pat Garrett, Eaton found the man and two of his hirelings at the bar. Eaton ordered the killer to “fill your hand, you son of a b****!” shooting him twice through the heart as he reached for his gun under the bar. The two hirelings wounded Eaton, shooting him in the leg and in his left arm. Garrett helped Frank and saw to it he received help from friends out of town.
After seeing Eaton in an Armistice Day parade in 1923, students at Oklahoma A & M College, now Oklahoma State University, asked “Pistol Pete” to pose as the school’s mascot. Eaton agreed and became the “original cowboy” and living symbol of Oklahoma State University until his death.
His likeness was also adopted as the mascot of the University of Wyoming and New Mexico State University, which lead to a bit of a kerfuffle. It's also rumored that the cartoon character "Yosemite Sam" was modeled after him. I think ol' "Pistol Pete" would have been proud.
Tracy Garrett


  1. Wow! What a life he lived. Thank you for sharing this fascinating, and exciting, story.

  2. They made them tough back then. I could hear so many Western stories, TV shows and movies in the life Pete led. Thank you. Doris

  3. I met Pistol Pete on April 22, 1950. That day he saved my life. I will always remember him with fondness and gratitude. But make no mistake, the man Frank Eaton and the legend Pistol Pete were two separate individuals. Pete was Frank's alter ego, the creation of his fertile mind. To learn the real story read my book, "Pistol Pete and Me, Plus a Whole Lot More", available on Amazon.