MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Whether it’s riding a nasty bucking beast or tackling any other obstacle that comes down the rodeo trail, D.V. Fennell has done it.
The Porum, Okla., has ridden the rodeo roller coaster to the top of the peaks, twice qualifying for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. In 2009 and 2010 combined, Fennell, a bareback rider, earned just shy of $200,000. When life is good, things are easy.
But rodeo is not easy, and Fennell’s 2011 campaign is proof of that. The cowboy competed at just as many rodeos as previous years, but he finished the season with just $20,477. That’s the nature of the beast in a sport where contestants not only cover their own expenses but also pay a fee in order to compete; the only way a cowboy earns money is if he his time or score is better than most.
“I’ve been pretty blessed to have some great sponsors in my career,” Fennell said. “Not only that, but I’ve got some dang good friends. Jack Hodge has been both to me, and I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done.
“When you’ve had a rough stretch, and I’ve had a rough stretch over the last year or so, you really know who your friends are.”
When cowboys struggle earning money, expenses are still there. Sponsorships help offset those costs.
“When money was really tight, Jack Hodge took care of me,” said Fennell, who has worked construction for several years when he wasn’t competing at an elite level of ProRodeo. “He hired me for a remodeling project at Hodge Ford, and that helped me a lot over the last few months.”
Fennell, 38, has been around the game almost all his adult life and didn’t play on ProRodeo’s grandest stage until later in his career. He plans to return to Las Vegas again very soon.
“When you have the kind of year I had last year, you can do one of two things,” he said. “You can just pack it in and call it quits, or you can go harder. I ain’t got quit in me, so I have just one option.
“I’m not stupid enough to think I can do this by myself. I can’t, but I’ve got guys like Hodge Ford in my corner.”