NEOSHO, Mo. – It’s good to have good friends. D.V. Fennell knows that as well as anyone, if not better.
Fennell, a bareback rider from Porum, Okla., is a two-time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, one of the elite cowboys in the game. When times were at their best, his bandwagon was quite full.
But it’s when he found some down times in his chosen sport that Fennell realized how good his friends were. Whether it was a call to try to brighten a gloomy day or a pep talk to help him handle the next bucking beast in his path, Fennell had a strong support system.
“When you’re at the top of the world, everybody’s your friend,” Fennell said. “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.
“Eric Norris is a good friend. When I needed something, he was there. He’s been much more than a sponsor to me for several years, and he proved it over the last year.”
Fennell finished the 2010 season with $68,251, good enough for 15th in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings. The year prior, he finished ninth in the standings with nearly $131,000.
So how rough was 2011 for the Utah-born, Oklahoma-raised cowboy? Fennell finished the campaign with $20,477, 41st on the money list. That’s well below the expectations Fennell has for himself.
“My job is to be the best at what I do,” Fennell said. “I love to ride buckin’ horses; the nastier the horse, the better. But it’s a rough sport, and you’ve got to have a great network of sponsors and friends.
“One of my greatest sponsors is also one of my greatest friends, and that’s Eric Norris.”
Whether he’s riding in a small rodeo in eastern Kansas or at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas while playing on ProRodeo’s biggest stage, Fennell wears the brand of Eric Norris State Farm Insurance of Neosho.
“I can’t say enough about Eric, because he’s stuck by me no matter what trouble I’ve had,” Fennell said. “I plan to wear his name on me and tell everyone about him at the biggest rodeos in the country and on national TV, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. He understands the nature of the game, and he’s OK with it.
“That’s a real friend.”