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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 NC Lawyer (not verified) on
The way he sold out Justin was disgraceful. Called him dangerous. And pretending to track the poacher with those awesome animal noises. Was that just editing? Come on, man. Have some reason about you. Euseless couldn't surviving his way out of a leaky barn.

Submitted by Peyton Billington (not verified) on
I would like to comment on this piece that was written about Eustace Conway and the show Mountain Men. My brother and I lived in Boone, N.C in the late 80's. We were a sort of back to the land kind of family. I first met Eustace when I was about thirteen years old. I remember him as being a very down to earth, very intelligent man. My brother who was eleven at the time, spent a week with Eustace on his land learning how to build a tipi,how to start a fire without matches and many other life skills. I remember my brother came down with the flu during his stay and had to come home a little early. I am 37 now and live in Texas. Hate It!!! When I saw that Eustace was on TV, I felt homesick and so happy for him. Everything that he has, he has worked very hard for and deserves every bit of fame coming his way. If you live in North Carolina, you would understand and be able to appreciate who this man really is. He is truly a legend.

Submitted by Actual NC Native (not verified) on
If by "understand" you mean I know guys who do stuff like he does and aren't stupid about it? Yeah. As in he seems to have a skill set more limited to the hippie lifestyle outside Boone then the real mountain men from this area, yeah. The guy might be a real bad ass but the show isn't helping his rep. Riding a damn horse into town is theatrics, and cutting to scenes of the interstate and stock footage of cars from another state (front license plates blanked out that we do not have here) is lazy television and distorts any "reality" from what he claims to be.

Submitted by GVN (not verified) on
Your argument that it was stock footage because of the license plates is pretty bad. I watched the episode and I know every road Eustace took to get to Boone and while he was in Boone. Also, this is a college town and a tourist town. We also have a great number of people who live here for the Summer from other states. You don't think their out of state cars would be on the road as well?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Come on guys - we know how media always wants to make things look more dramatized, ridiculous, and/or just not real, but with the "misfire" the actual online definition is "failing to achieve desired results"! There are definitions that are what you are saying " not firing", but there are also other definitions. I love this show and before you bash it - do the research without biases! Mountain Man Lover!

Submitted by NC Lawyer (not verified) on
You don't know anything about guns. That's a statement, not a question. It was a stupefactive thing for Euseless to say. I have not seen one thing on this show that he has done with any semblance of competence or common sense. Everything he does is weird or backward or wrong. And he WHINES. The only mountain he should be associated with is Mons Veneris.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I for one don't feel sorry for eustace and his losing his land situation. It wasn't his to begin with. Being Cherokee I strongly feel that the land belong to somebody else long before him. Screw him and his stolen land that he does profit from the big jerk. I wish he would lose it and his 1,000 acres be put back in the hands of its rightful owners. Native Pride!

Submitted by Buz Carpenter (not verified) on
As a resident here, I couldn't help but laugh at the episode where Eustace goes into town on a horse to 'find out his fate' over his taxes. He is on his way to the courthouse in downtown Boone, county seat of Watauga County. Trouble is, Turtle Island Preserve is located one county up in Ashe County. If that wasn't bad enough, he entered town from the east side when his property is located about 25 miles northwest of Boone. He should know better since he graduated from Appalachian State University less than a few blocks from the courthouse. I'm sure the producers chose Boone since it's the largest town around and the only one you can pick out on a map as the center for his tax woes. Come on guys, get it least get a few things factual.

Submitted by GVN (not verified) on
The address for Turtle Island is a Boone address, off Little Laurel Road which is between Boone and Deep Gap. In fact I put the address on Google Earth and there it was. Where did you get your information that it was in Ashe? It is no where close to the Ashe line. He came across Bamboo which is actually the correct and shortest way unless you want to try 421 which was clogged by road work at that time. You must be in the same boat as Eustace and get lost a lot. Go look it up, Turtle Island is in Watauga County, off of Little Laurel Rd, to go West and end up on Bamboo. You may need to either buy a map or turn yours right side up.

Submitted by NY Sportsman (not verified) on
I've been watching the Mountain Men program and generally find it entertaining, but I have issues with the Eustace Conway and don't feel he's a good representation for the show. The program where he's hunting for meat and shoots a young doe (which wasn't big enough for (2) crock pots of dinner) was rediculous. First of all I saw no hunting tag on his back so is he hunting illegally, and secondly he's dragging the deer easily by himself and it hadn't been field dressed yet, but the announcer said it was enough meat to feed the island for a month. NO WAY was that deer big enough for that length of time and it made the show sound cheap to the true sportsman that knows hunting.


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