'Barrels, ropes, and goats:' 14-year-old Kenlee Hodge keeps family tradition at area rodeos

George "Clay" Mitchell
Press Argus-Courier

Kenlee Hodge wants to be around friends and family.

She can't find a bigger group of family and friends than when she competes at one of the rodeos in the Arkansas River Valley area or n Oklahoma.

"There are good people out here at the rodeo. I may fall off the horse or have a bad event, but they're right there with me and supporting me," Hodge said. "The little kids keep me going as well. You want to do well. You want to do good for them because they look up to you, so I'm always out there trying my best."

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Hodge, a rising freshman who attended Hartford Schools before it consolidated with Hackett, said she'd had some highs and lows but currently leads her age division (14-19) in the all-around. The DD (Double D) Rodeo Company puts on 20 events each year at various communities around the area, including Natural Dam in Crawford County, Booneville, Waldron and Scranton.

"Honestly, I can't tell you a time I wasn't in the rodeo," Hodge said. "It's always been a part of my family. My brother rode bulls and has been to Pueblo, Colorado, twice. My dad rode bulls."

For Hodge to describe what she does at the rodeo, it's "barrels, ropes and goats."

She competes in barrel racing, does breakaway roping and is also the header for a roping team. The header is the one who ropes the running calf while the horse is in a full gallop.

She also does goat tying, a timed event, which involves the rider racing out on a horse, jumping off the horse, getting a hold of the goat and tying three of its legs.

Hodge won the breakaway roping event at the Scranton rodeo event and was third in both barrels and goats.

"I like breakaway roping," she said. "It's just something I've always enjoyed doing. Being the header isn't the easiest, but as the heeler, I'm not the greatest at that."

Hodge was taught to rope by her twin brother, Klancy "Newt" Hodge, who died in a hunting accident in November 2020. Their mother, Brandie, said it was difficult for Kenlee to pick up the rope again.

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"It was difficult for all of us to get back into rodeo again," Brandie Hodge said. "It was something we all did together every Saturday."

The family and volunteers are currently working on getting Hartford's Joe Scalet football field converted into a rodeo arena in time for the July 2 and 3 event in honor of Newt Hodge.