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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 jerry thompson (not verified) on
Main problem I see is what you consider proper etiquette may be for you but not for others. I have taken several game animals in my day including rossevelt elk, and when I am on the hunt the last thing I am concerned with is if barrel is getting wet or did I touch it. Now I hardly rifle hunt, so when I get on an animal, I will rest that barrel on anything I have to in order to steady my self. I always clean my weapons, I will worry about the barrel then.

Submitted by Jay C. White Cloud (not verified) on
Jerry, you seem to be implying this is my etiquette,not a common standard among hunters today, while most others hold your position? Perhaps this is true, thinking about it most of the time I see more bad habits these days than good, (I am not referring to you, since we truly have never hunted together.) So I guess we can agree, I have officially become "old fashioned," and the more common practice, because of weapon durability and relaxed concern for etiquette in general, you can use a gun anyway that is perceived safe and/or functional to the situation, and clean it thoroughly later.

Submitted by Jerry T (not verified) on
No Jay, what I am saying is this is the etiquette that you live by, some live by it, some do not. As I said, I will clean my weapon when the day is done, letting it get wet, or touching will not destroy that weapon in a day. The few times i have used a rifle when i got back to the camp at the end of the day i always wiped it down or cleaned it if it was fired. And there is nothing wrong with being old fashioned. However the way you are old fashioned and the way I am old fashioned have different traits. I have friends that i don't hunt with anymore because they would either rather road hunt or sit in a ground blind and get drunk, not ,my style and I was taught differently.

Submitted by Jay C. White Cloud (not verified) on
I think I can understand more of what you are describing. I have shared or discourse with several others, (minus our blathering of the beginning,) and the younger fellows in the group all pointed out, (some, though young, are very well read and accomplished as outdoor people,) that the weapon culture of today is drastically different that when I was their age, and this has much to do with the design and construction of the modern hunting weapons. Etiquette evolves like everything else I guess, as long as respect stays intact, not all is lost. I still told them, I would give them a "wrap in the head," if I ever caught them sticking their weapon into some leaves. They all laughed. They even have a different read on the "Mountain Man," series and watch it for shear entertainment and do not get rapped up in the idiotic antics of the 3 man characters. One even pointed out that at no time has the show ever claimed to be more than a snap shot of these three man, (staged events or not,) and their individual take on rustic life, correct or incorrect. One went on to point out that the show has been compelling enough to keep a "codger," like me mildly annoyed, to the point that I am following this thread and having discussions about what is wrong with the show. He said, "You know, Jay, people learn more from mistakes, than from doing things one way all the time, you taught me that." (Student become teacher.) They have, however, begun to worry about how poorly edited the show has become and some of the blatant bad staging of scenes, such as riding horses into town, which made no since at all.

Submitted by Jerry T (not verified) on
I did not see all the episodes. The man from Montana seemed legit. Did not live a real rustic life. After all he had power and in one episode i saw a satellite dish on his property. Seemed like a regular man enjoying his retirement. As far as Turtle Island, this just seemed like a way for him to promote his business. Saw very little of the guy in Alaska so i can really not comment on him.

Submitted by Jay C. White Cloud (not verified) on
I to have not seen all the episodes, because I only can stream it on the net when it is up, usually late at night when I come into the shop office here to do my admin work and writing. I agree with you about the gentleman in Montana, he present as an ordernary citizen, actually of not much note at all. I don't see him in any light as a "Mountain Man," unless living in Montana, liking the outdoors and being male qualifies you for that distinction. Now for our Turtle Island character, Euctace, him I know of from personnel experience while living and guiding in North Carolina during my time in the Marines. (Go to heir web sight if you are at all curious, it is eye opening. Check out his "copper head" video,) He was a bit of a "left fielder," back then and has only gotten worse with time, he isn't even in "left field's," parking lot now. Very insular and narcissistic as he gets older, taking on "apprentices," (read slave labor,) to feed an aberrant ego, and not giving them much of anything in return. Your read of him as a "self promoter," is spot on. The fellow in Alaska doesn't seem that much different than the gent from Montana. Just living it in the Alaskan stile. All of this makes sense, to a degree, if you think about it. Out of your own personal experience, think of those you have know that would be qualified to be call a modern day "Mountain Man," and ask your self, if they would have anything to do with this type of show? I have had a few of my own students try and push me in the direction of one of these shows, even up to the point of talking to a producer. (the show topic would cover my other occupation as a "Timber Wright.") The producer, from HGTV had contacted my partner and wanted to follow us around as we restored and moved old barns, folk architecture from Japan and like kind adventures. All the problems we are seeing in this show, came right to the surface when talking to the producers and directors of the...I think they wanted to call it "Barn Again," or some nonsense like that. They expected us to give them a candid view of what we do, re-staging certain elements for filming and effect, with out our editorial say so, well that was never going to happen.

Submitted by Jerry T (not verified) on
I am not sure how far off the grid Euctace is, obviously if he has a web page and is advertising his little "paradise" he has electricity there. Now I actually have a, well sort of speak neighbor, who is in fact a real mountain man. He has a hand built cabin, no electricity, he either grows, hunts or catches all his own food. For the most part he stays to himself, i see him from time to time at the river or the lake. Every now and then i wonder up to see him. a few months back i let him come down and cut up some trees i have fallen so he could use it for his stove. Only modern thing he really owns is a old ford truck. He has brought me some of his veggies and extra elk meat, in exchange i worked on his truck for him. I do wonder what the guy in Alaska did for his money, no way did he make enough to afford the planes and that house on trapping alone.

Submitted by Jay C. White Cloud (not verified) on
You are spot on about our Alaskan character, I can't see him generating this life style from being a trapper or guide, (there are so many, that would seem to be better.) So that leaves us with; very successful early retirement, inheritance/trust-fund recipiente, or, (I have seen this,) a flat lander pilgrim that made it big with oil or gold, all chucked into a over romanticized way of life in the bush of Alaska, and for that I wish him God's speed. Your neighbor sounds like so many I have met. Here in Vermont they are everywhere, luddites to the nth degree, living the old ways, not asking for much or none at all from folks that may be around. These are true salt of the earth folks. They are not the type of folks that would tolerate a camera following them around, if they did, that camera would have to be wheeled in much different fashion than it is on this show.

Submitted by Jay C. White Cloud (not verified) on
I to have not seen all the episodes, because I only can stream it on the net when it is up, usually late at night when I come into the shop office here to do my admin work and writing. I agree with you about the gentleman in Montana, he present as an ordernary citizen, actually of not much note at all. I don't see him in any light as a "Mountain Man," unless living in Montana, liking the outdoors and being male qualifies you for that distinction. Now for our Turtle Island character, Euctace, him I know of from personnel experience while living and guiding in North Carolina during my time in the Marines. (Go to his web sight if you are at all curious, it is eye opening. Check out his "copper head" video,) He was a bit of a "left fielder," back then and has only gotten worse with time, he isn't even in "left field's," parking lot now. Very insular and narcissistic as he gets older, taking on "apprentices," (read slave labor,) to feed an aberrant ego, and not giving them much of anything in return. Your read of him as a "self promoter," is spot on. The fellow in Alaska doesn't seem that much different than the gent from Montana. Just living it in the Alaskan stile. All of this makes sense, to a degree, if you think about it. Out of your own personal experience, think of those you have know that would be qualified to be call a modern day "Mountain Man," and ask your self, if they would have anything to do with this type of show? I have had a few of my own students try and push me in the direction of one of these shows, even up to the point of talking to a producer. (the show topic would cover my other occupation as a "Timber Wright.") The producer, from HGTV had contacted my partner and wanted to follow us around as we restored and moved old barns, folk architecture from Japan and like kind adventures. All the problems we are seeing in this show, came right to the surface when talking to the producers and directors of the...I think they wanted to call it "Barn Again," or some nonsense like that. They expected us to give them a candid view of what we do, re-staging certain elements for filming and effect, with out our editorial say so, well that was never going to happen.

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
In trying to decipher that mess of a post I see you now state that stainless steel is "treated" to prevent rust. Once again you are wrong as there is no "treating" such as with plating or galvanizing. Stainless steel is an alloy. Quit acting like a know-nothing know-it-all. You DO NOT use a rifle to poke things with, stir paint, mash potatoes, or clean your ears! In your case I'll make an exception on the latter. Not one person here has agreed with you but you still check back several times a day to dig your hole deeper, and digging with the barrel of a Purdy Best 12 gauge.

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