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Rodeo-clown-turned-stockbroker knows thing or two about bull market

The next time you feel yourself stereotyping someone, you might want to recall this tale of the rodeo-clown-turned-stockbroker.

After all, can you think of any two more contrasting careers? OK, maybe museum curator-turned-monster-truck-driver. Or ballerina-turned-mud-wrestler. But you have to admit that you generally don’t think of a stockbroker and a rodeo clown being one and the same. That’s because you haven’t met Marc Gilkerson.

Gilkerson is a dyed-in-the wool cowboy with a business degree.



“Why, yes ma’am,” he answered when asked if he grew up on a cattle ranch. Gilkerson was born in Montana and raised in Lewistown “in the exact geographical center of the state,” he said.

The 32-year-old has worked in the Glenwood Springs office of a major stock brokerage firm for three years. Greeting visitors at the office’s entrance is Gilkerson’s dog, Cash. She trots around the place like she owns it – not something you’d expect to see at a brokerage hung up on rules and regs.



Seeing Cash might make you think that Gilkerson has melted down corporate procedures. But not quite. For this tale, Gilkerson’s boss asked that the company’s name not be used – unless “corporate” could review and approve of this article before it goes to print. But daily news reporting, like rodeo clowning, is a fast-paced business. Rodeo clowns don’t get to wait around for approval before they dodge a bull, and neither do we. The brokerage remains nameless.

`Cowboy protectors’

Future stockbroker Gilkerson was still in high school when he started rodeoing.

“My teachers thought I was crazy,” he said, “but rodeoing paid for college for me.”

Gilkerson attended college on a rodeo scholarship – or colleges, in his case – on and off in Wyoming, New Mexico and Nebraska. He earned degrees in farrier science, a.k.a. horseshoeing, and business.

All the while, Gilkerson rode bareback and bulls, qualifying for the National College Finals and the Mountain State Circuit Finals.

His career in clowning came by accident.

“I was at a rodeo when one of the rodeo clowns – well, I call us cowboy protectors – didn’t show up,” he said. “I was asked if I wanted to fight the bull.”

You see, in the world of rodeo, the clowns don’t usually refer to their occupation as “clowning.” They “fight” the bull, which is probably a more accurate description. As a rodeo clown, Gilkerson would literally plant himself in front of a just-ridden bull, providing enough distraction so the bullrider could get out of harm’s way.

“You can’t outrun a bull but you can out-turn them,” Gilkerson said, sitting at his office desk underneath an enormous poster of a bullfighter.

Getting out of the way of a raging bull -or a bucking horse – is part of rodeo life. But so is getting hurt.

“When it’s timed right, and you’re spurring ’em good, a ride can feel like, `Is it over already?,'” he said. “But if you’re hung up and getting drug around, it can seem like forever.”

Gilkerson has had his share of dealing with pain. He competed on the professional rodeo circuit despite broken ribs and concussions. He broke his arm in three places once when a horse threw him into a gate, and another horse kicked him in the back and neck so hard that he passed out.

“It’s part of the game, playing with pain,” he said. “I guess I have a high threshold. Sometimes, with my adrenaline pumping, I wouldn’t even know when I was hurt. Once, when I was clowning I got hit twice in the arm by a bull’s horns. I didn’t even realize I was hurt until I took a shower that night and felt that part of my arm. It was all bruised.”

A friend’s death

Gilkerson traded off bareback and bull riding with bull fighting for five years, all the while attending college.

“If I wasn’t riding that good, I could fight for pay,” he said. “I did all right.”

Along the way, the allure of the rodeo lost some of its shine.

“A good friend of mine was killed when a bull stepped on him,” Gilkerson said quietly. The friend had just finished his ride, and Gilkerson was fighting the bull. But the bull turned back, threw Gilkerson’s friend to the ground and stepped on him. He died a week later.

“I only rode about three bulls after that,” he said. “I concentrated more on bareback.”

Gilkerson quit rodeoing and fighting bulls for good in 1997.

Now, he and his wife, Sherri, own two horses up Dry Hollow south of Silt. Sherri, a championship rider, trains horses at Skyline Ranch in Carbondale and is currently competing at the American Quarter Horse Association World Championships in Oklahoma City.

“Last year, she got a fifth in working horse,” he said proudly. “That’s really outstanding because it’s an old boys’ deal. She was one of two women who made it to that level out of 30 to 40 riders.”

From stock

to stockbroking

Gilkerson’s transition from running stock to stockbroker came pretty naturally. When the couple was living in Nebraska in 1999, Sherri took a job that June training horses at a ranch up Four Mile outside Glenwood Springs. Gilkerson finished school and followed her to Colorado in December that year.

“I saw an ad in the paper,” he said of his high-finance job. “I applied for grins.”

In true Western style, Gilkerson is graciously modest about being chosen for the position. “I never thought they’d hire a dumb cowboy like me. I thought, `Didn’t anyone else apply?’ As it turned out, I guess there were about 15 to 20 applicants.”

Like his dog Cash – named after a fellow horseshoer and not greenbacks – Gilkerson has no problem breaking stereotypes left and right. Gilkerson competed in his last rodeo in Venezuela in 1997, on a tour promoting beer. Now he’s a financial planner, with a disposition as trustworthy as an armored truck.

“I’m just a regular joe,” Gilkerson said with a grin.


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