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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 Rory (not verified) on
If Eustice doesn't know enough to site in his own rifle rather than assign the task to someone who doesn't know how and is therefore present to learn those things he has no idea how deer travel. Couple that with the fact he refers to bad shooting as misfires and I wouldn't be surprised to see him place a bait pile in the tree tops. I wasn't referring to the disturbance of placing the stand either. I was referring to the mad rush to get it done. I'm better prepared than that and I work for a living. I live in Michigan's Upper Penninsula and we also have red oak and beech and they definitely don't keep their leaves through the winter. If they do at Eustace's place then it's not very cold, hence my point about his unnecessary whining. Also, while it's not ideal to leave chainsaws in the rain a little water won't rust them they way he carried on. The bar oil pretty much makes them as waterproof as a military rifle packed in cosmoline. He should have been crying about water in the carbs rather than rust. That guy is just a whiny old hippie that uses his boarders to do his chores for him. Nothing wrong with that if he can pull it off but he's no "Mountain Man". Back to Marty, if he maintained his plane the way he maintains his snowmobile the show would be WAY more entertaining.

You're spot-on about the NC weather ... I can vouch for it: It's not THAT cold ... LOL ... certainly not Montana or Alaska (or Michigan) cold, by any means ... I've laughed about that one throughout the show ... I mean, I wouldn't want to sleep outside on the ground during the winter months, but it's also not the extreme that the producers are making it out to be, either ... silly.

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
Thank you! I've never been to NC in the winter but I've seen every episode of the Andy Griffith show and I don't recall Earnest T ever being pulled from a snow drift or Otis recovering from hypothermia in jail. In the U.P. we regularly go ice fishing in 20 below temps. We don't do it to survive, just to get a change of scenery while standing around drinking and waiting for spring.

Won't find that in NC, I guarantee ... LOL ... NC is beautiful, and a lot of cool people, like there are anywhere ... the falls are just gorgeous, when the leaves change ... but it's definitely not a winter wonderland, as these voice-overs are suggesting ....

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
Then why the rush and panic to fill firewood orders that have been PROMISED for the next day? I assume customers would be gearing up for a bonechilling night in the low 50s and possibly be packing for National Guard evacuation teams that have been deployed rather than worry about late firewood, LOL. His 2-cord orders are obviously for those that want fires for ambiance, not survival. I don't know how much wood costs there but he'd be cutting all year nonstop up here to pay taxes on 1,000 acres.

It gets cold, for the area-- easily below freezing--just not Montana, Michigan, Alaska kinds of cold ... like I said, I wouldn't want to sleep outside for the night ... but it seems unlikely that there are a lot of people who need firewood for survival purposes ... most people around do have access to other heat sources, and some supplement with firewood (saves a lot of money, in my personal experience) ... but, yeah, probably not a lot who are gonna be without any kind of heat if they don't get their firewood run from Eustace ... LOL

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
I'd place my bet on the likelyhood that he inherited his property. All the buildings and chasinsaws as well as his impressive collection of over 200 hammers likely came from grandpa and then dad, only to be scooped up by Eustace the lazy opportunist. I guess if he had any kind of ambition there wouldn't be much to show as his place would be in tip-top shape, the bills would be paid, and he'd just be standing around polishing his hammers. I bet he had some money at one point too but blew it all on weed and Janis Joplin posters. I'd like to see more of his 'boarders' to figure if he's running more of a commune or a cult. Back to Tom, I have a German Shorthaired Pointer too and I put a tracking collar on him when afield. I'm thinking 2 of those would be a good investment for him since he and the dog are always disappearing. The neighbor that's always bothered with tracking them down at supper time should buy one for each of them.

Submitted by 8Gs (not verified) on
Mayberry was Mt. Airy, NC. The Andy Grifith show was shot on a Hollywood back lot. Visit Mt. Airy and you'll see it's nothing but hills.

Submitted by Lee (not verified) on
Winter in the NC mountains cn be harsh. I've been to Turtle Island and even though it was 90 plus in Atlanta, it was actually cold up in the mountains on his land.

Submitted by Lee (not verified) on
Winter in the NC mountains cn be harsh. I've been to Turtle Island and even though it was 90 plus in Atlanta, it was actually cold up in the mountains on his land.


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