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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 Anonymous (not verified) on

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

Submitted by Rick (not verified) on
Someone should tell the History channel that Eustace showing how to can deer meat is NOT the right way!! You NEVER water bath meats, only high acid foods. Meats MUST be pressure canned, or else Botulism is a possibility!!! I tried to find a legit "contact us" link on the History Channel site, but couldn't. Hopefully, someone that watched the show won't try this and die from botulism.

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
Nonsense! As 'Jerry T' will tell you (when he's not arguing that the sky isn't blue) Eustace can do no wrong! I'm hoping Jerry T proves this by using the canning recipe shown, complete with dirty river water filtered through rotting leaves, moldy blue plastic barrels, and the occasional dead raccoon. I'm sure it will turn out fine as long as the mixture is thoroughly stirred with the barrel of a rifle.

Submitted by Jay C. White Cloud (not verified) on
I do not get to see the show that often, as I have to stream it on the web, so I did not see this episode with Eustace canning deer meat. However, as someone that has and often does put up their own food , I could not agree more with Rick's position on this subject. This is perhaps one of the most iniquitous topics the show has chosen to allow to go on air and could easily lead to someone severe illness or death.

Submitted by LJP (not verified) on
I hope that Eustace DOES get to keep his land. I hope that in the future he will not let his taxes get deliquent and be more responsible. Also, I hope he NEVER EVER takes his horses into town again and risks getting them killed in highway traffic on narrow and congested roads. If he truly LOVES his animals, he will not cause them to suffer. Eustace, you seem to be doing good things and respecting mother earth and all of God's creatures (on the show, for the most part). I hope in the future that you will stop hunting animals and consider becoming a vegan/vegetarian. No, you do not need meat to get all those calories to keep you doing all the hands-on work your lifestyle requires.

Submitted by Rory (not verified) on
I'll never stop eating meat and I'll never stop hunting since a head of broccoli would look pretty silly hanging on the wall over my fireplace.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I have lived in Boone since 1994 and have often heard the old timers call Eustace useless. Finally, I asked why useless? They replied, he is as useless as tits on a boar hog.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
You're one up on me. I live in Boone now but originally from Wilkes so I've been in the area most of my life. I had never heard of him till I saw this "great reality show". For anyone who didn't get it, this was mean with a load of sarcasm.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
As someone said, the locals DO refer to Eustace as "Useless". We particularly laughed at the three hour horse ride to town. I could walk from Useless's place to city hall in less than that time. AND, the 1000 acres he supposedly has? We haven't figured that out yet. No way he has that much land.


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