Both father and son, Rich and Dustin, are graduating from Montana State University on Saturday. Dustin, 23, graduates from the College of Engineering in computer engineering and computer science. Rich, 52, graduates from the College of Agriculture in agriculture education, broadfield teaching.
Rich raises horses at his Gooch Hill farm.
Dustin jousts from aboard the back of his spotted steed, Checkered Past.
As a member of a small professional medieval reenactment troupe, the Knights of the Gallatin, Dustin spends his weekends convincing his gelding that it's OK to have someone on his back swinging a big stick and spurring him on to a gallop.
As a member of an elite group of parents with children who recreate dangerously, Rich reminds Dustin that he only has two eyes and needs both of them.
"Stitches under his eye and two scars from a sword," says dad.
"Yeah, OK, I should have ducked," says son during a good-natured sparring match.
When it comes to studies, however, both Dunkles are serious. Rich completed a teaching internship at Livingston's Park High School where he taught agriculture education and helped students prepare for Future Farmers of America competitions. His resume currently circulates among schools and private foundations.
Dustin is "recovering" from final exams before beginning a job with the Bozeman high-tech firm, Advanced Acoustic Concepts.
"Dustin can pay off his student loans, my student loans and take care of me in my old age," laughs Rich.
When Dustin entered MSU in the fall of 2000, his parents Rich and Pam lived on their horse farm in Ronan. By 2003, they had sold their Mission Valley acreage and moved to Bozeman, and Rich enrolled in MSU for a second bachelor's degree. He received his first MSU degree in agriculture production in 1976.
Dustin lived in the Quads and later, an apartment, although he stables Checkered Past at his parent's place, joins them for a few meals and occasionally brings his laundry basket home.
The two rarely see each other on campus because, Dustin says, "I practically live on the top floor of engineering's Cobleigh Hall.
"I tutored Dad in Math 150," he says. "I hadn't done simple math since high school in Ronan. Usually I'm doing calculus and engineering. Although I knew the fundamental equations, I don't often use algebra and basic stats, so I had to re-learn it to help him."
"Well, I checked Dustin's papers," Rich replies. "We would talk about his papers on lidar (laser radar), and I would nod intelligently like I knew what he was talking about. I just use my towering intellect," he adds with a laugh. The senior Dunkle stands at 6'4" while Dustin is a mere 6'1".
"Our family banters a lot," says Dustin's mother, Pam, a veterinary assistant and 1976 MSU animal-science graduate.
Jabs and jokes aside, the graduating Dunkles recognize the worth of MSU degrees. Dustin is a third-generation graduate. Grandmother Carol Seebart Dunkle of Helena graduated in 1948 in business. Her husband, Frank, received both a bachelor's and master's degree in fish and wildlife management and an honorary doctorate from MSU in 1987. Dustin's sister, 20-year-old, Ashley, completes MSU's horseshoeing program in June and is pretty darn good with the sword.
"I really enjoy fighting with my sister," he says. "She's a very intense person. At our last show, the Kids Fest at MSU, she really came after me."
He says that show jousting is a great way to keep in shape.
"I have about 50 pounds of gear in full costume. I bought the sword, but I made the armor. I have a mail shirt that has about 7,000 dime-sized metal rings to protect me."
"He uses my tools to create the armor," Rich says. "And he returns the tools back to their places--most of the time."
Whatever the future holds for the Dunkle family, it may include a crowning moment: Dustin hopes his parents will join the jousting professionals as the show's 15th-century royalty. For the moment, Rich and Pam have declined the throne and opt to enjoy the dual graduation.
Contact Dustin Dunkle 579-6104 or Rich Dunkle 585-1384