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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

Comments

Submitted by wv hillbilly (not verified) on
From day one I thought that doesn't look like North Carolina. So tonight Eustace' buddy said something about slipping over the hillside in Watauga County. Guess what? Watauga county is in tennessee in the smokey mountains. Why is history channel lying to us?

Submitted by GVN (not verified) on
No it is not, I live in Watauga County, you need to look at your map again. Sorry bud, but it looks like you're badly mistaken.

Submitted by wv hillbilly (not verified) on
Sorry GVN, I have been mistaken. I was looking around on google earth a couple days ago cuz I wanted to see where watauga lake was. Old Crow Medicine Show has a song on their new album about the lake. I was zoomed in too close when I saw a placemark for turtle island. It is pretty close to tennessee though. Very pretty country down there. I would love to visit that area.

Submitted by GVN (not verified) on
Its easy to mistake, especially since Watauga Lake is not in Watauga, not even in the same state. It is pretty country up here. If you ever come you'll enjoy it, the Parkway is great and the views are magnificent.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I never usually read these random Internet comments and never post, but I came across this page searching for the show and I am facinated with the emotion and time you people spend arguing about these three guys. I haven't seen this level of infatuation since grade school, but it gave me a good laugh so thank you. Bringing up law and definitions over a tv show's use of a word?? Researching ways a guy makes money?? How dangerous wolves can be with stats?? I'm sure they appreciate the attention but you should probably use the time you spend living in your parents' basements to find work instead of researching these guys. But I appreciate the quick laugh.

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
So when's the old man coming to live with you? I think a show about him playing shuffle board in Florida would be more entertaining than watching him call that ill behaved dog each week.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Come on people! You all act so offended and shocked at these staged reality shows. Even Cody Lundin talks about staging a dead rat cause his trap didn't catch one. Of course they stage most of it. If they don't add the dramatic crap they don't think u will watch. But I think the opposite is true. I'd rather just see the boring reality of it. Then Dual Survivor is going to add the Hawke guy with his horrible voice and they will stage even more stuff. I guess as long as they are staging realistic things in order for the guys to demonstrate a skill I would be fine with it. But yeah, all tv is crooked. Don't gain ur survival skills from tv. U will die. Put ur boots on and go stay in the back yard for a week with no gear or food. U will learn how to survive. Or die.

Submitted by NC Lawyer (not verified) on
Hawke is not replacing Canterbury. The new cohost has never been on tv before. Why would you say something like this when you know it is not true?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Come on people! You all act so offended and shocked at these staged reality shows. Even Cody Lundin talks about staging a dead rat cause his trap didn't catch one. Of course they stage most of it. If they don't add the dramatic crap they don't think u will watch. But I think the opposite is true. I'd rather just see the boring reality of it. Then Dual Survivor is going to add the Hawke guy with his horrible voice and they will stage even more stuff. I guess as long as they are staging realistic things in order for the guys to demonstrate a skill I would be fine with it. But yeah, all tv is crooked. Don't gain ur survival skills from tv. U will die. Put ur boots on and go stay in the back yard for a week with no gear or food. U will learn how to survive. Or die.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I have been to Turtle Island several times, including two four-day stays with middle school students, and I assure you that Eustace Conway is the real thing. He is a fascinating person who was green before green was cool. I have been troubled by some of what I have seen in this series and wonder how Eustace feels about the way he has been portrayed. The idea of his reliance upon selling firewood to survive was ridiculous, but I imagine the producers of this series found his programs, camps, etc. too mundane. I think the History Channel wants programming that is derived from heavily edited footage to make the programs more interesting or dramatic. Too a certain extent this is understandable, but it is going to backfire as the shows become less accurate representation of the topics being explored. So don't blame Eustace. He is just out there doing his thing and helping many people discover just what they are capable of accomplishing.At

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