My Uncle Don Boyles passed away earlier this year. I have a lot of uncles (big Okie families were common) and many of my uncles were interesting in different ways. But my Uncle Don was the only family member to ever be in the Guinness Book of World Records. This is a story of how Don Boyles got into the Book of Records and how he eventually was expelled from it. Also, his journey included him getting arrested.

The year is 1970. The place: the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado. At the time it was the highest bridge in the world at 955 feet. I was only 3 at the time so I don’t remember when it happened. My Mom tells a story that she was listening to her car radio when a news story about a “crazy man who jumped off the Royal Gorge Bridge” came on. The way Mom tells it, “I thought to myself ‘That sounds exactly like something Don Boyles would do’, right before the news report identified the jumper as Uncle Don.

Don’t worry, though! This isn’t a tragic story. Don was a renowned thrill seeker who was really into, among other things, skydiving. Sometimes out of an airplane but frequently he would B.A.S.E. jump. B.A.S.E. jumping is when someone parachutes off a (B)uilding, an (A)ntenna, a (S)pan or (E)arth. Earth means “cliff” but B.A.S.C. didn’t spell out an actual word, I guess.

The “span” or “bridge” was the one that got Don in the Guinness Book when, on September 7, 1970 Uncle Don parachuted off the highest bridge in the world. I didn’t even know there was a video of it until my Mom sent me the YouTube link this morning. Here it is.

So that’s how he got into the Guinness Book. Then, about 20 years later, he was taken out. NOT because someone had beaten the record, though. As Don told me, “The decided they weren’t going to include things that were illegal so they called and told me I was out”. It was, and I assume still is, against the law to throw anything off the Royal Gorge Bridge. INCLUDING oneself! That’s where the arrest came in. According to Don, “Cops and Park Rangers were waiting for me when I landed. They cuffed me and put me in their car.”

So, R.I.P. to my late Uncle Don Boyles. He was a really good uncle and a very, very interesting person.