The cowboy professor

31 May

KI0A0783

Dennis Steele wears two hats.

During the school year, he’s an associate professor of computer science at Regis University in Denver.

He wears his other hat – a huge, black cowboy hat – as owner of Bit-O-Wyo Ranch, a guest ranch with a horse barn dinner show and trail rides near Cheyenne, Wyo.

Dennis grew up in Cheyenne. He earned an undergraduate degree in applied math and a master’s in philosophy. He came to Iowa State for his Ph.D. in computer science while he was teaching at Graceland College (now university) in Lamoni, Iowa.

He bought land between Cheyenne and Laramie, built a home there in the 1980s, and raised a family. Today, he and his wife, Molly, run the ranch, and his daughter operates a children’s adventure camp there each June.

Starting around the Fourth of July, the horse barn transforms into dinner show, with a chuckwagon line featuring “cowboy grub” followed by a bluegrass vocal show starring Dennis, his family, and friends in the Blue Water Cowboy Band. Last year, people came from 47 states and all over the world – more than 100 each weekend night.

“We do a lot of Nashville stuff, lots of comedy, and some cowboy poetry,” Dennis says. “I’ve been showing off with a guitar and banjo for a long time.”

Being both a college professor and a guest-ranching Wyoming cowboy doesn’t seem to bother Dennis in the least.

“I go from ‘Aw, shucks’ and spittin’ to teaching circuit programming theory,” he says, laughing. “I’m a cowboy PhD.”

 

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