There are three things that are a must for rodeo cowboys who hit the road chasing their gold buckle dreams: grit, determination and the means to get from one rodeo to another.
Bareback rider D.V. Fennell might have just added the final touch to the coveted, yet elusive, world championship in his partnership with James Hodge Ford of Muskogee, Okla. The sponsorship agreement provides the two-time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo the resources he needs to make a third straight trip to ProRodeo’s grand finale.
“I’m pretty dang proud to be part of HodgeFord.com,” said Fennell, 37, of Neosho, Mo. “Jack Hodge has been awesome to work with, and he’s taken great care of me. It’s just an honor to work with somebody that goes out of their way for you, the way Jack’s done for me. I really appreciate that guy.”
This isn’t the first foray into ProRodeo for Jack Hodge, owner of the Muskogee dealership. In fact, he’s had an established partnership with Fennell’s traveling partner, 2008 bareback riding world champion Justin McDaniel of Porum, Okla. Over the past year, he’s seen how the partnership with an elite cowboy can help get word out about the dealership.
“D.V. and Justin are two of the greatest guys you’ll ever meet, and it just so happens they’re two of the best bareback riders in rodeo,” Hodge said. “They’re the kind of people I like working with, and it’s something we’ve built our brand around since my dad opened his first dealership in Idabel (Okla.) 41 years ago.
“I’ve gotten to know D.V., and I’m excited to have him and Justin carrying the HodgeFord.com brand to every rodeo they go to, including the National Finals Rodeo. That’s great exposure.”
Hodge was born in Idabel, which is in the southeastern corner of Oklahoma. That’s a familiar neck of the woods for Fennell, who was born in Utah and raised just 20 miles from Idabel.
“You’re not going to find too many people that are better than Jack and Eric Norris,” Fennell said, referring to the State Farm Insurance agent in Neosho. “Eric’s been with me a long time and has been a true friend. Even though this sponsorship with Hodge Ford is new, I know Jack and know what he’s about.
“I want to give back to them more than they’ve given to me, and the best way I can do that is go out and win that gold buckle.”