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Mountain Men raises authenticity questions with each new show

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

As the History Channel reality series Mountain Men goes forward, more questions arise regarding reality vs. television.

The depiction of the History Channel’s Mountain Men becomes more suspect the more one searches for information on the reality television show.

Turtle Island Preserve was founded by Mountain Men cast member Eustace Conway. He does seem to be the “real deal” as far as loving and living on the land is concerned. Visitors to the Turtle Island Preserve website are greeted thusly:

“We live, teach, breathe and believe in nature's governing truths. We interact with the beautiful clarifying teachings of nature as we interpret it's story. We are more about doing it than talking about it. We invite you to visit us and experience all that is Turtle Island!"

There are many programs available on Turtle Island Preserve, from camping to spoon carving to tree-house building. According to the website, “The programs at Turtle Island Preserve are powerful and effective. We dig deep reaching profound connections within us, touching our ancestral roots. ‘SIMPLY REAL’, we touch the sources of life directly, unshielded from nature's truths. Intimate and personal, we experience relationship building with the foundational essence of our existence.”

But, these programs are pretty pricey. The spoon-carving class comes in at $95; tree-house building $250; 5-day adult camp $650; and if you want a meal on-site during an activity that does not include one already, you’ll plunk down another $15. Plus, if you see Turtle Island Preserve as suggested on the website—“The easiest way to see Turtle Island Preserve is to schedule your own personal Horse Drawn Carriage Ride with Eustace! This is great for those people who want to come to Turtle Island but just can't wait for the next Open House!”—you’ll pay $75 for one person, $65 for two or more people for an up-to-two-hour ride.

Making a Living on Mountain Men

There is nothing, of course, wrong with charging for services. Everyone has to make a living, after all—nothing wrong with making an honest living. But, Mountain Men recently insinuated that Conway’s ability to make actual cash was extremely limited, and depicted him frantically chopping firewood in an attempt to make enough money to pay his property taxes. Plus, the History Channel is not particularly open about others on the Turtle Island Property with Conway. “Interns come to Eustace to learn the old ways of living with nature in a self-sustaining society,” says Conway’s bio on the History Channel website, with no reference to the money-making programs available. And, on the show itself, statements are made such as the one last night, “Eustace calls his land ‘Turtle Island.’ The 1,000-acre plot requires a great deal of upkeep. So, he trades room and board for maintaining it.” One can assume that this refers to the internships on the property, since Justin, featured on the program, is listed as an intern by the History Channel. But, The fact that they have these other money-making programs in place is avoided in discussions about the upkeep of the property, and statements such as this one insinuate to the viewer that all activities on the property are not money-making but bartered as a way for Turtle Island Preserve to continue to function.

It is possible, of course, that not a lot of people are signing up for the classes on Turtle Island Preserve, and that there isn’t a lot of income from the programs offered. But, if that is the case, why not be upfront and address it? But, as one Huliq reader commented recently:

Why is Eustace not paying his taxes, It's not like he is not making any money. Look up Turtle Island Preserve and see all the camps he has and what he charges. $95 for a spoon carving class. The show makes it seem like he has no income except for cutting down trees and selling it for firewood.

The longer this show goes on, the more staged it appears—not a good sign for the longevity of Mountain Men.

Oh, and by the way: Last night, Eustace kept saying his gun "misfired." Clearly, it did not. When a gun "misfires," there is no discharge; "misfiring" does not mean that a gun's sights are off, which is the way he appeared to be using it. Makes one wonder, in fact, whether or not Eustace Conway is the "real deal" after all.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Will Eustace keep his land in Season Two?
Image: Wikimedia Commons


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
"North Carolina General Statutes state that: Any person owning or controlling a residence, place of business, or place of public assembly shall provide an approved sanitary sewage system." "Resident and Primitive Camps" are also listed under the types of food and lodging facilities that fall under the Division of Public Health. Thats from the Watauga County Health Dept. website, which I believe is where Turtle Island is located. I hope I quoted it accurately. Doesnt seem like five gallon buckets, or even an outhouse fulfill the requirements, as it could be considered a residence, business, and/or place of assembly. Not sure about the food part, I havent seen much about it on the show. The TV show could also just not be showing whats truly going on. We could be seeing just 10% of what they film. Thats all just my interpretation anyways. For all I know, Turtle Island could have a business license, health inspections and all its ducks in a row, and it just wasnt covered on the show. Heck, its TV, maybe they exagerated his money problem too. A $90+ Spoon carving class? Yikes.

Submitted by NC Lawyer (not verified) on
This is History, not Discovery. Is that a Husky he is flying? And is that weather really as bad as they make it seem? Seemed rather innocuous to me. He had to stop for the night for the terrible storm, but not one shot of the terrible weather? And why do Alaskans call them snow machines and not snowmobiles?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
On the last episode, Eustace's truck broke down and needed to tow it using work horses. However, the last shot showed them struggling to get up a hill but you could clearly see the smoke from the exhaust of the truck running So staged...

Submitted by Coyotejoe (not verified) on
Yes I caught that too but I would give them a pass on that. Supposedly the transmission was out but if so he could still run the engine so as to have power steering and brakes. In fact, when he first nearly ran into the back of the horses I thought "well start the engine dummy to get power brakes". LOL As to how they dispose of their waste, I don't know, I sure hope they aren't just dumping it in the woods but I wouldn't be surprised. Also, if selling firewood was his only income that thousand acres wouldn't last long.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
do all you idiots think that these reality shows have to be 100% authentic to be entertaining and realistic? mountain men is a very good show and is extremely entertaining without being abusive and crude. you na sayers get a life!!!!!!!!!!!

Submitted by CoyotejoeCoyoteJoe (not verified) on
What's so hard to understand about the word "reality"? We have it from people who know that the producers of this show take hundreds of hours of flim to cut and edit into a segment which bears no resemblence to "reality" at all. The three subjects of the show are made to look like helpless bunglers by the producers who take a condesending attitude toward their subject. This is a critique of that TV show and both the original article and most comments have been spot on, so why do you feel the need to jump in with rude personal attacks on people who have done nothing to you?

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
Well, yes I suppose a "reallity" show should be "realistic" in order to be viewed"REALISTIC". Do you know why there are no "reality" shows about mermaids and unicorns? I will give you 3 guesses....

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
1. You NEVER give your rifle to someone else to site in. Anyone that hunts knows that. 2. When a gun "misfires" that means the trigger was pulled but the bullet didn't shoot. It has nothing to do with missing a target. 3. He lamented on how he could die when he caught a cold. The mailbox at the end of his driveway indicates that he's a short trip from some 'lifesaving' cough drops from a convenience store even if his truck is pulled by horses with the engine running. 4. He whines and cries about getting an annual tax lien. Pay your bills on time, hippie. That way you can avoid late fees. 5. He carried on about how important it was to fix the roof on the leaky shed FAST. The level of rot and amount of moss on those shingles indicate they have been leaky for many years. Saving rusty nails is a waste of time too as they don't have the strength of new nails. He could buy a lifetime supply of nails I'm sure for the tuition price of 2 spoon carving classes. 6. He preaches the virtues of nature while dumping buckets of human feces in the woods. 7. He waits until deer season to build his blind. You do that WAY before the season starts and you place it by looking for trails game uses, not by finding a tree with a 'Y' in it. 8. He whines about winter and how harsh the weather is while we can see leaves on the trees and his counterpart in Alaska has icicles hanging from his mustache. Now let's talk about Tom. He isn't counting on deer or ducks to survive the winter. All he needs to do is follow the lead of everyone else around him and buy a couple weeks worth of groceries. If he's snowed in the roads will be plowed in no time, likely a day or two. He's just a guy that enjoys the outdoors. Every state in the far north is full of guys like that and there's nothing heroic about it. Also, why does he keep letting that dog outside every time he thinks he sees or hears a bear? Now Marty. No different than any Alaskan or Canadian bush pilot except for the fact that he traps without a gun. That's just dumb as trappers use guns to finish off wounded game and also for emergency when riding around on a 30 year old snowmobile in the middle of nowhere. Spilling gas all over the floor next to his wood stove was a nice touch. I've met a few morons like him in northern Ontario so I think he's real.

Submitted by SE KY Mountain Man (not verified) on
Eustace wasn't dumping feces, they use composting toilets. He was dumping urine. By living on Turtle Island as long as he has, He would know the traditional travel patterns of the deer. With as much work as goes on there, the disturbance of building that stand is not going to be much of a bother. In fact, that blind was probably built weeks before gun season.For your info red oaks and beeches keep their leaves into spring. As for Tom.......I agree....seems like he's just a guy that lives in Montana...not much else. Marty is tough, I'll give him that. As I am watching him though, I keep thinking how in the heck has he survived! He is a train wreck. He should have a gun and survival gear every time he leaves the cabin. Also, as a trapper myself, I don't see how he could make a living with his shoddy equipment and poor planning.... I think we could gather a lot more info by knowing what the liberal media has left on the cutting room floor.


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