By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Bull riders hang on for eight seconds to make their ride. Greg Casteel has been hanging on for 41 years and his biggest ride might still be to come. He applied to Guinness World Records to be recognized as the world’s oldest professional bull rider and expects a company representative to visit the Carbondale area to check him out.
“It (the Guinness) is a goal to ride for,” Casteel told The Sopris Sun, few days after competing in the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo on Aug. 6. He plans to ride on Aug. 13 as well, and in Cody, Wyoming later in the summer.
Casteel, 54, grew up in Arkansas, “on the west bank of the Mississippi.” He met a bull rider when he was 12 and was fascinated with him. “He told me I should come and ride a bull.” When Casteel was 13, he talked his father, Arlen, into taking him to a rodeo to get on a bull. “He wasn’t involved with rodeo … He said ‘we’re going to get this over with real fast.’” That was in 1975 and Casteel is still riding.
“It’s my passion.”
A member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association since 1981, Casteel’s best year was in 1987 when he won between $12,000 and $14,000. “Back then, $600 was a big win but I saw a kid win $2,000 in Carbondale.”
Casteel lives in Carbondale and owns the Aspen Barber Shop, which he bought in 2003 after moving to the Roaring Fork Valley from Fairbanks, Alaska.
Bull riders are sometimes known for the injuries they suffer from getting thrown to the ground and kicked around by 2,000 pounds of unhappy beef. There’s even a joke that goes something like this. To become a bull rider you take a handful of marbles and put them in your mouth. Every time you ride a bull you spit one out and when you’ve lost all your marbles, that’s when you know you’re a bull rider.
Casteel seems to have kept all his marbles. He said he heard some sound advice from Freckles Brown, who was still riding at the age of 48. “He said never ride when you’re hurt.” Also, to keep relatively injury free, “I work out every day.”
Guinness World Records is now in its 60th year of “collecting iconic records of human achievement and from the natural world,” according to its website. Besides actually riding bulls at 54 years old, Casteel has also been trying to maneuver through Guinness’ complex application and verification process. He’s confident his long ride through the Guinness system is almost over.
And what is he shooting for after achieving the record? “I’m going to ride until I’m 60.”
Published in The Sopris Sun on August 13, 2015.