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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 john tennessee (not verified) on
I googled "turtle island" and found it to be a commercial entreprenurial type set-up, not a guy living off two grand a year, they have groups that lodged there, boy scouts, etc, a single adult pays 650.00 a week, meals included. There are classes/workshops for spoon carving, $90.00, and treehouse building for $250.00, people are not working for room and board, but paying quite a high rate to be in this commune, and his other big income comes from 2 hour wagon rides personally from Eustace, $75.00 for 1 adult, $65.00 (each) if it's 2 or more. A big "Fraud" is an understatement, but it's entertainment for the masses, guess that trumps telling an honest story !

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Any one notice that other snowmobile in the yard? Who's filming this? Does he have to walk 10 miles back to camp in 60 below night?What about the guy in Montana getting"lost" only he's on camera and his friend goes looking for him with his trusty over and under trap shotgun in griz country,huh? with the breach open in a driving snow? Who in their right mind walks around in a driving snow with a open breach shotgun over their shoulder.Phone service and electricity, not that remote.When a gun misfires it does not fire hence the term MIS. What Eustace did was MISS and if his sights are off its because HE did not check them BEFORE he took a shot at a living animal. As far as I'm concerned its Eustace that ought to be shot for this.This isn't entertainment it's stupidity best. To represent a subject that is so noble and honorable and disrespect the people involved with this crap makes me sick. That the people in the show would allow themselves to be disrespected this way really blows my mind.The formula for all these "reality" shows is the same, the same bullshit commentary, the staged decidedly unreal scenes. This show has combined all the very worst of these features. I'm sure Jim Bridger would be as disgusted as I am.What they ought to do is take a couple of the producers and drop them off in the Alaskan wilderness and film it, now that would be entertaining!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I have done some research and have found no reports of wolf-related deaths in Montana or the Rocky Mountains. There have been two in Canada in the past decade. With all of the political tension over the existence of wolves in this area, it is disturbing that any show supposedly based on reality would permit this misinformation that can add fuel to the already tense situation and could prove disastrous for the wolves. Many people live in areas as remote or more so than this Montana couple, but there is no wide-spread carnage by grizzlies or wolves. If you are so fearful, one would think you would move elsewhere.

Submitted by Anon (not verified) on
I wondered about that, too. Seems like the producers enjoy giving the wolves a bad rap.

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
I'm anxiously awaiting the next episode in where Eusless is shown in the previews searching for a supposed trespasser while armed. Fist off I've never seen any fences or signs marking his property lines so if he points a gun at someone for wandering onto his property i anxiously await his arrest and ensuing charges for felonious assault.

Submitted by NC Lawyer (not verified) on
I am a licensed NC attorney. Since 2006 I have represented debtor rights in NC and Federal courts. That is all I do. I have filed hundreds of bankruptcies and seen innumerable times that legal notice Eustace was holding. What you saw was a Notice of Rights to Claim Exemptions. This is sent after a judgement is rendered against a debtor. This document allows the judgment debtor to list property that is protected from collection under NC exemption laws, found in NC General Statute 1C-1601. Look it up. The interesting thing is that these do not apply to tax debts; they apply only to consumer debts. For Eustace to say he is losing his land over taxes is a LIE. It cannot possibly be a mistake. He was served notice of the debt, notice of the hearing and clear notice of a default. He knows he owes someone money. The idea that he is riding to court on his horse like Paul Revere is laughable. This is no longer a court matter. Unless he hired a lawyer to set aside the judgment, he is going on a sightseeing trip and that's all. About the poacher: the were talking loudly, giving ludicrously bad bird calls and stomping around to track a poacher with a weapon. Why not call the game warden? We all know those are decent guys who take their jobs very seriously. They will confiscate your weapon and your vehicle. They do not play. How convenient that his bumbling friend fell just as they were about to catch the guy, who conveniently got away! If my retard friend fell while I'm tracking a poacher, he's a big boy. He will catch up. I don't need to hang around and kiss his booboos. Also, hey Eustace, you only need to rack a shell into your pump shotgun once. And why didn't the shell you put in before eject when you racked the slide for dramatic effect? Did your shotgun misfire as well? I'm not going to pick on Tom. He seems like a nice guy. I like Marty, though he let's them put him in stupid situations. And his daughter is a cutie Tomboy and reminds me of my daughter. My biggest question is how did the History Channel find the three most accident prone people on the planet who have somehow managed to not kill themselves through sheer bumbling stupidity?

Submitted by GVN (not verified) on
I was wondering the same thing. I hear that Hee-Haw sing playing in my head during this show "Gloom, despair, agony on me, deep dark depression incessant misery, if it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all, gloom despair and agony on me.". I know that reality shows are anything but reality but these bad luck moments seem too happen way too much to be believable. I mean how did the History Channel happen to hit upon these three men on what looks like their worst year ever? I've said before that I live in Boone where Eustace lives. I have to tell you, Eustace is so famous around here that no one has heard of him and to be honest we wish it had remained that way.

Submitted by NC Lawyer (not verified) on
Yea, when I saw Marty take off his glasses because they were fogged up (what?!?! Is this the first time he was outside in Alaska wearing glasses?) and he just put them behind the windshield I was DOUBLE U TEE EFF?!?! What idiot would do that and how did they go from the windshield to under the tread, not beside the snow machine, and land on a substrate hard enough to grind the glass out of the frames? This is the worst-written show on tv. The producers are complete buffoons and the editor is a joke.

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
So I guess we can assume Eusless ran up a massive debt at Home Depot while assembling his collection of 200 hammers and was therefore sued. That would explain why he was making that kid save the bent and rusty nails in the first episode. I was curious as to how someone that lives by "the old ways" on 2 grand per year can afford a modern synthetic stocked shotgun as well. Maybe he quit paying on his Walmart card too.


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