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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
I told my son we should head down there for the wagon ride Eusless offers for $75 per person and he thought I was nuts. Then I asked how much he'd pay for the opportunity to heckle Eusless in person and point out all his shortcomings....... We agreed to head down in August and I've reinforced my title of <b>Best Dad Ever</b>..

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I really hate to read all the comments slamming these guys on the show, I really feel for them, and I agree there's a lot of drama and fiction but some of the comments are really nasty. Their families probably read these comments too maybe. Having said that, I do want to say that this comment made me laugh so hard my wife was wondering if I am OK. I must have laughed for at least 10 minutes and couldn't stop laughing to explain to her what the heck was so funny (she didn't see the show). I don't recall if it is exactly as the poster described it, but it sure made sense what he said: "His friend comes up to him and tells him he saw 2 sets of antlers Tom could use to make knifes. "lets go find them!" Wouldn't it have been easier for his friend to simply bring them back to Tom when he originally found the two small antlers? They have to go antler Hunting to re-find the antlers his friend left behind."

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
<i>"Hey! Antlers! Tom could sure use these since his living is based on them! I know his knee is bad and he's pretty old and it's really cold out and there are grizzly bears around that may eat his dog that doesn't listen, but I'm going to go tell him where they both are since risking his safety is worth him making enough money to pay the satellite TV bill this month.:"</i> Later that day: <i>"So the battery is dead, huh Tom? Let me go wiggle it while you turn the key. Nothing? I don't understand! I was always told that wiggling miscellaneous car parts would make them good as new! That must only work for flat tires or something."</i>

Submitted by jen (not verified) on
I just watched that episode. That is not what Tom's friend said. He told him that he found antlers in that area earlier and implied that he kept them for himself. They went back to the area to find more antlers.

Submitted by jen (not verified) on
I just watched that episode. That is not what Tom's friend said. He told him that he found antlers in that area earlier and implied that he kept them for himself. They went back to the area to find more antlers.

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
That's awfully selfish of his friend considering that Tom is old and crippled and counts on those antlers to earn money for the cable bill.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Eustace.....What a douche bag! Fraud....

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
I have to say that as much as I look forward to the buffoonish antics of Eusless I was actually embarrassed for him when they started with the bird calls. When his friend took a dive and the supposed poacher got away down the neatly groomed trail, which may have even been paved such as on a golf course, my son and I came up with a theory of what happened next. 'Poacher' makes it back to his foursome on the 9th hole. Someone asks <i>"Did you find your ball?</i> He says <i>"Screw that ball! There's two inbred kooks over there with guns making animal noises at me!"</i>

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Bumped into MountainMen Show on History and noticed Eustace on their at Turtle Island where I used to work years ago helping build it and run it with him and Preston. Some interesting stories to tell. They are the real deal, at least to a certain degree, they know their skills and live it as best they can in today's world. It takes money to run even an Appalachian Mtn/Foxfire school. It has to come from somewhere. Eustace and Preston choose not to incorporate non-profit and solicit grants. Eustace does teach at schools for hire as top dollar guest artist. But that wont budget the school. No one is getting rich off Turtle Island that I know of. Eustace has a long way to go on his social and business skills, and the episode I watched on History seemed really staged. I dont think it is their fault though. Im sure they would have preferred just filming the work and craft they do with the kids and the land without all the Hollywood sensationalism. But when opportunity knocks you gotta go with it! Anything to promote the place and further the work. OK, a bit of vanity tossed in too. For one thing Turtle Island being a forest preserve is not a place poachers would flock as deer are scarce there. And what is the big deal over his Kale patch as his food source? That's the big crop for survival? Kale? Strange. I guess he was desperate when it came time to film. And what's this about a threat to "his" Turtle Island Preserve land? Lien? Eustace often tried to make us feel guilty for receiving any compensation for running the camp even though we only got paid when groups paid. Money is a sticky issue with any environmental center, and especialy with him. But to their credit they do serve up the old ways to the kids and anyone interested. Just be prepared for the accompanying guilt trip for not being as 'real" as he is. As one might expect in deep south good ol boys, there's a fair bit of accompanying ego. If anything, I think Preston is the real deal. He has a heart of gold and the skills to match. Eustace would be lost without dear Preston.

Submitted by NC Lawyer (not verified) on
He doesn't have an indiginous accent like Preston. And when he was bashing on Justin calling him dangerous I realized what a jerk he is. He uses a bunch of stinky hippies for slave labor and throws them out when they realize it. Justin seemed like a good kid and a hard worker. Useless is clearly pig headed and self-absorbed.


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