story by Ruth Nicolaus Kyle Gardner is doing his darndest to keep team roping alive and well in the Northeast. The Stephentown, New York cowboy, […]
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Meet the Member Jesse Markel
story by Ruth Nicolaus
Jesse Markel knew at a young age what he wanted to do for a living, and he proved it to his mom.
School really wasn’t a good fit for the Dover, Pennsylvania bullfighter, and in ninth grade, he dropped out. His school offered the chance to go to an alternative school setting, what the students called “Bonanza High School”, because it was located in the mall by a restaurant with the same name.
So Jesse attended Bonanza High. Students there were given the textbook, a packet, and required to fill out the packet, looking for answers in the book. For tests, they couldn’t use the book but they could use their packets. If a person copied their answers correctly, the tests were a piece of cake.
Jesse was done in two months. “There were kids taking smoke breaks,” he said, “but I sat down and did all my work and had all my credits done before the kids in my grade went on Christmas break.”
His mom, Pam Kline, had promised that if he completed his alternative schooling, she’d let him do what he wanted.
And what he wanted was to be on the rodeo road. So he went with Cliff “Hollywood” Harris, driving for Harris, as Harris worked as funny man at PBRs and rodeos across the nation. He saw the country and took in the sights, visiting Las Vegas at the age of sixteen, and every year after that.
It was the best learning opportunity Jesse had for his future career. By 1996, he started fighting bulls, first for Ernie Hostetter with Redeye Rodeo at jackpots and Monday night practice pens. “I learned how to not get run over,” he said.
Then it progressed to youth rodeos and CPYRA events.
It was at a bull riding in the late 1990s that he got noticed. It was an all-day event, starting at 9 am and running past midnight, and Jesse kept going. “I’d take a hooking and jump right back in there, and keep going.”
Dave Martin, then owner of Championship Rodeo, noticed him and asked Jesse to fight bulls for him. It was 1998, and Jesse worked for Dave’s rodeos and later his bull ridings, till 2018.
Not only did he fight bulls for Dave, but he helped with the rodeos, setting up and tearing down portable arenas, and worked at Dave’s place, too, with construction, maintenance and livestock.
Jesse has worked for other contractors as well, including Sam Swearingen, Mark Reed, Sonny Williams, Preston Fowlkes, and more.
He got his American Pro Rodeo Association card in 1999 and held it till 2002, fighting the APRA Finals several years. He currently fights bulls for All American Rodeo Co.
When Covid hit and put the rodeo world on pause, he, like others, went to work in whatever way he could. He had chickens, bought more, and sold 750 of them within a month. He tore down a log cabin and made shelves, and hauled new campers to retail locations. He’s made jewelry organizers and other unique items.
Jesse has two sons, Cash, age twelve, and Carter, age eight, who are as entrepreneurial as their dad. At a barrel race, the boys picked the dandelions gone to seed, “puff balls,” and sold them for a quarter a wish. When people started giving them a dollar per puff ball, they upped their price.
And at a First Frontier Circuit Finals, when the boys ran out of money to play video games at the hotel, they bought a bag of Twizzlers and took it to the after-party, selling them for a dollar a piece. The last few years, after-party attendees have asked where the Markel boys are. “Now that’s the thing at the circuit finals,” Jesse said. “People ask, where are your kids at?”
Jesse renewed his APRA membership three years ago and became a PRCA bullfighter about five years ago.