by Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun
A couple of years ago, the cowboy with twirling six-shooters, who’d been the Aggies’ mascot for 40 years, suddenly disappeared.
A foam-head replacement called Lasso Larry just didn’t seem able to fill Pistol Pete’s capacious boots.
Fans at NMSU’s games felt a sense of loss, there was mourning among them, there was deep despair.
But then, great rejoicing.
If you haven’t heard by now, Aggies’ fans are now cheering from the stands because Pistol Pete is back: Six-guns and all.
And with a little help from Tucumcari.
Because Pistol Pete is really Tucumcari’s Nickolaus “Nick” Wiegel. Wiegel, a 6-foot 1, 19-year-old sophomore at NMSU, gives Pistol Pete his panache.
Wiegel graduated from Tucumcari High School in 2005 before he went to New Mexico State University on a full academic scholarship. Wiegel made his first appearance as Pistol Pete when the Aggies’ football season kicked off on Aug. 31.
As Pistol Pete, he stands in front of the 50-yard line and gets the crowd pumped up. Because he’s played football — he played tight end and linebacker for the Rattlers — he’s conscious of the plays and the timing to get the crowd behind the team.
Wiegel says he likes the idea that he’s creating “a positive atmosphere” at the games. He’s also been signing autographs, for kids and adults. He thinks Pistol Pete is a good change from Lasso Larry. “Lasso Larry’s mask scared the little kids,” he said.
So Pistol Pete has been a hit. But the football games aren’t the end of it, Pistol Pete will also be spinning his six-shooters during the Aggies’ basketball games and NMSU’s mascot will be doing much more.
“I’ve been to an alumni luncheon, a corporate tailgate party, a ribbon cutting and a grand opening,” he said. “There’s been quite a bit extra since the first game, but I’m meeting neat people and I’m networking.”
His father and mother used to be known as C.J. and Audrey Wiegel.
But since all the news stories about their son as “Pistol Pete,” they’re pretty well reconciled to being known as “Pistol Pete’s” parents — without disavowing their other son, 13-year-old Patrick, and their daughter, 10-year-old Madeline.
C.J. Wiegel, who owns Tucumcari General Insurance, said, “We went down for the first game. We had a blast. He just got the crowd fired up. He does a fast draw and raised his pistols as to fire in the air. We’re really proud.”
“It’s been way fun,” his mother said. “He’s got a heart for sports.”
Their son, his parents pointed out, has authentic cowboy status, he has competed in both English and Western Pleasure events. And some of his showmanship, polish and spin come from his competitions in equine sports, said Audrey Wiegel.
NMSU’s rodeo coach, Jim Dewey Brown, helped him get Pistol Pete’s outfit together, from his boots to the hat.
“The hat is a 20x Rodeo King,” Pistol Pete Wiegel said, “It’s very nice.”
But is takes more than boots, chaps, a vest and a hat to make Pistol Pete. That’s why, Brown said, the alumni association told him he should “bring his guns back.”
“So,” Brown said, “I brought his guns back. They are Colt 45s. He’s got two of them. We wanted to make him look authentic.”
However, he quietly admits, “They don’t even shoot blanks.”
The university had previously taken a stance against the mascot having guns due to crime around Las Cruces, but felt Pistol Pete was a better mascot than Larry Lasso.
Brown doesn’t take full credit for Wiegel’s Pistol Pete getup. Saddle Barn Tack Distributors in Roswell also helped put the look together. “We updated him, gave him a complete makeover,” Brown said.
Before high school he was home schooled. At Tucumcari High School he played basketball and football and was the salutatorian of his class. At NMSU he is a business management major and currently has a 3.8 grade point average. In addition to his full scholarship, he’s getting a mascot scholarship to help with boarding.
When he went to NMSU he joined a fraternity and participated in a fraternity skit that led friends to suggest he would make a good Pistol Pete.
Nick Wiegel said, “Several people suggested me, said I was the outgoing type and I decided to give it a shot.” The process of selection began in August.
And his horsemanship, his having played football and the fact that he was voted Mr. Tucumcari High School, have all added up to the right resume.