LAS VEGAS – His right hand is swollen with torn ligaments, black and blue. His left wrist might be fractured, and his upper back and neck just plain hurt.
Such is the result in a nasty, 10-round heavyweight fistfight under the bright lights of Las Vegas. For every punch, every kick, every whollop D.V. Fennell received, he countered with all his might. A kick to the back of Fennell’s head was met with a sharp scraping from the neck, over the shoulders and along the back.
Punch one, counter two.
So how does a 165-pound Missouri cowboy qualify for a heavyweight bout? He attached himself to 1,200 pounds of muscle for 10 straight nights as one of the elite bareback bronc riders in ProRodeo, one of the top 120 contestants in the sport who qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. His reward was a chance at $17,512 each night, the prize given to each go-round winner. The challenge was trying to match moves with the best bucking beasts in the business.
“It definitely feels like I’ve been in an alley fight, and I got my tail whipped,” said Fennell, 37, of Neosho, Mo. “I’ve got plenty of bruises to show for it.”
Fennell entered ProRodeo’s championship event No. 15 in the world standings with $64,485 in regular-season earnings. His hope was to find a financial windfall in the Nevada desert, just as he did a season ago when he won more than $60,000 over 10 nights in Las Vegas. But that didn’t happen either. He placed in two go-rounds and added $3,766 to his 2010 earnings.
“The thing about the finals is that you’ve got to ride well and have some luck,” said Fennell, who was born in Utah and raised in southeastern Oklahoma. “I didn’t have any luck. That’s just rodeo. If you can’t deal with that, you’re not much of a cowboy.”
But Fennell is all cowboy, and he proved it as much at this year’s NFR. By the second go-round, he had suffered a pinched nerve in his upper back, and he felt the tingling all the way down his left arm, his free arm. He also landed awkwardly on his left wrist, which may have led to a fracture that has yet to be diagnosed.
Through each ache, Fennell kept countering the muscular bucking flesh. It’s the mentality he’s held to for a couple dozen years, since the first time he placed his hand into that rigging and nodded his head to begin the first ride.
“I’ll take some time off, heal up,” he said. “I’ve got to get the results of the MRI on my neck to see that everything’s OK. But I think everything will be fine, and I figure I’ll be back at it by San Antonio.”
The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo begins in early February, so there won’t be much time on the sideline for Fennell, who attended Vernon (Texas) College and Southwestern Oklahoma State University. But there’s a reason for that.
“Shoot, this is what I love to do,” Fennell said. “I’m ready to get in the middle of that fistfight again.”