Local bull rider sets Guinness World Record
In the four-plus decades Aspen Barber Shop owner Greg Casteel has spent clenching onto 1,500- to 2,200-pound bulls, he has broken a leg, a wrist more than once, a thumb at least five times, too many ribs to count and suffered 13 concussions.
When asked if doctors have advised the bull rider to throw in the towel, Casteel smiled coyly.
“Yes,” he said. “But it doesn’t do any good.”
At 54, Casteel — perhaps better known around Aspen as “the Cowboy” or “Cowboy Greg” — set the Guinness World Record for oldest professional bull rider still featuring in competition.
The Guinness World Record group informed Casteel of the record via email March 31. Casteel received a copy of his world record from Guinness in the mail about two weeks ago.
But Casteel insists that major injuries to both the head and body are normal for bull riders, and said this is why the sport is neither common nor wildly popular.
“There’s a very small percentage of people because it’s very dangerous. It’s known as the most dangerous sport on dirt,” Casteel said, adding that he has lost several friends to bull riding accidents.
But Casteel said he never rides when he’s hurt — a lesson he learned from a former world champion bull rider.
“People ask me how often I ride, and I always say to them, ‘when I’m healed up and I’m well.’”
In recent years, when Casteel is fine and well, he aims to book one rodeo each month, totaling roughly 12 competitions annually.
But back in his heyday as a bull-riding champ, Casteel rode about 80 bulls per year and traveled coast to coast to compete.
In his 41 years riding bulls, Casteel has won eight championships and has the gold and silver belt buckles — which he sports proudly across his waist — to prove it.
According to Casteel, belt buckles are signs of accomplishments in the bull-riding world.
“Belt buckles prove what you have achieved,” Casteel said. “To other bull riders, when you walk into a room, it automatically sets your status.”
Despite the risk of danger or death, Casteel, who hopped atop his first bull at age 13, said the rodeo feels like home. But only when he’s straddled atop a bull, either behind the bucking shoots getting ready to compete or inside the arena.
“I actually sat in the crowd before, and it did not feel normal at all,” Casteel said in his deep voice and Southern drawl.
He paused for a moment.
“I’m thinking about how strange it felt sitting in the crowd,” Casteel said. “I was at the wrong place.”
Born in McGhee, Arkansas, Casteel said he never played sports growing up — “it was always just bull riding.”
Bull riding and also hairdressing, which Casteel learned from the women in his family, all of whom were involved in the hair business in one facet or another, he said.
When Casteel isn’t cutting hair or riding bulls, he’s inspiring others to grab life by the horns.
Like Aspen Barber Shop client Eric Montemayor, who works as a senior commercial lender for Community Banks of Colorado.
While trimming his client’s hair at the shop one Friday two years ago, Montemayor — having no prior knowledge of Casteel’s history with bulls — revealed that bull riding had always been on his bucket list.
Montemayor said Casteel stopped cutting his hair, swiveled the chair around to face him, looked him in the eyes and said, “You want to ride a bull?”
Casteel called the banker that Saturday and said they could check out some practice bulls in Palisade the following afternoon.
Without a clue what to expect, Montemayor accepted the offer.
Montemayor remembers the name of the first bull he rode — “Shermanator” — but that’s about all he recalls of the experience.
“I don’t remember my first ride, I was so full of adrenaline,” Montemayor said. “Everything gets really quiet until they pull open that gate. There’s so many emotions going on in that moment.”
A self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, Montemayor — who is now a regular bull rider — said it is one of most exhilarating experiences of his life.
But one person Casteel hasn’t convinced to hop on a bull is his wife, Jo-Dee, who is the director of radiology at Aspen Valley Hospital.
When asked about her bull-riding history, Jo-Dee said it started and ended once with a mechanical bull, and that she has no desire to change this.
Despite her disinterest, as well as the irony of her role in radiology, Jo-Dee is overwhelmingly supportive of her husband’s passion.
“My take on it is that I married him knowing that he loved the sport,” Jo-Dee said.
While she admitted she’s often concerned about her husband, “That’s the choice I made marrying him,” she said.
“This is what he loves , and if he’s happy doing it, who am I to badger him about it or say, ‘no, you can’t ride’?”
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