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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
Please provide a link to the review you are referring to.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
what kin is Eustace to Michael Ballard of tv reality show Full Throttle Saloon set in Sturgis ,S.D.?

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
So once again last night Eustace treats us to more first class buffoonery. First his water isn't running and we see his faucet held together with electrical tape. Why can't this lazy bum do anything the proper way?!? It's getting more like watching inner city ghetto folk as they seem to live the same way. Then we see his saw mill that they are quick to point out was built in 1925 but those roller tables and many other components are a lot more modern than that, as are the transformers in the powerhouse. Those cost a fortune and require maintenance so there's no way he lives on $2,000 per year as he claims. How exactly is running an electric sawmill akin to "getting back to the old ways"? Why wasn't he cutting those boards out with hand saws or at least powering the place with a treadmill? They could put him on it and dangle a bong in front of him on a string, thus powering the entire compound. Eusless is a dirty, lazy hippie with no goal in life except avoiding work. I bet he has a high turnover among the hobos living with him as they realize living under a bridge requires a lot less work and they don't have to listen to a 2-legged bedbug whine all day.

Submitted by Ozark Mountain man (not verified) on
The Sawmill is clearly not water to electric operated. There is a large gasoline engine connected by drive belts in several scenes. Also there is simply no way that the size system he has for electricity is large enough to run a sawmill. that takes massive horsepower. You cannot get say 50 hp from a 4" gravity water hose conversion. it simply isnt enough. It would be much more interesting to show how the same system powers lights and maybe a smaill fridge. History why not show the reality? why not show the real efforts? Nobody is fooled for long. This would be much more interesting to show that real poeple can live "off grid" or in the case of the folks in Wyoming, they live modern, with a very real wild and winter dangers. Why fluff this? And for God'ssake stop with the doom and gloom were all gonna fail when we all know they arent. so pathetic.

Submitted by GVN (not verified) on
You know, the funny thing is that I live in Boone and there are people who actually do live life by the old ways. All you have to do is go up in these mountains and you'll find them. I know Eustace was chosen because there is a book about him from a known author, but History really dropped the ball here. I also find it very interesting that his house has yet to be shown from the inside. Sadly it seem History would rather create a reality series, as in create the stories and situations, rather than just follow what happens. If they were really interested don't you think they would at least interview some of the interns on something other than "what did you do today and make sure that you make it sound like Eustace would be stranded in this world without that job"?

Submitted by Quad (not verified) on
I'd love to see the inside of his house, too. And, what about the women? What are THEY doing? And, how many are there?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Apparently this show targets the city dweller that dreams of being ine with the mountain. I just watched the episode where Eustace said he is powering his sawmill with water from his stream. First off a 4" water drain pipe will not produce enough power for a sawmill no matter how you slice it and what is more embarrassing is the camera shot that shows the gas powered Case power unit hooked to the mill via 3 v belts. Why does the producers feel that they always have to go over the top extreme and dramatic to get people to watch. They could have found 3 honest to god mountian men to document without this nonsense..

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I call BS on the Mountain Man section involving the couple living in Montana. It was stated as fact that wolves have killed several people that they know and this is simply a lie. Check any wildlife website about wolves, and they will show only 1 death in Canada, and several other attacks. That death was the first recorded since 1900. Yes, wolves COULD kill humans if they wanted to, but even attacks are very very rare. iHow can the producers simply allow these people to flat-out lie?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I was thrilled to see someone else caugh and brought up the whole misuse of misfire! There's a bunch of things that bug me but that one took the cake! Who in their right mind let's someone else sight in a weapon for them in the first place? That by itself is just stupid! I pretty much resigned myself to just watching to see what isn't right more than watching to learn something new.  Random Thoughts - The whole Eustace camp is more of a work camp and not much good for survival techniques.  One Hundred Miles is not that far to run for supplies in Montana.  And......  I have no clue how "what's his name" stays alive in Alaska! I cringe at some of the stuff he does. It's like an accident waiting to happen.  I started a search the other day, got distracted, but I'm glad I came back and finished reading because you hit the nail smack on the head! I'm glad I found this page!


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