‘Mountain Men’ is a reality television series on History Channel, which follows the daily lives and activities of several people identified as mountain men because of the lifestyle choices they made.
Mountain people choose to live in isolated mountains where they maintain an off-grid, self-reliant existence. This means that they rarely appear in society, do not normally make use of modern-day amenities such as electricity, and survive by exploiting the lands they live in.
Most mountain people live by hunting, trapping and foraging, but the lifestyle has gone through many changes as technology advanced. Many of them now have access to electricity, by some means or another, yet they still choose to live a simpler existence than most. The series, ‘Mountain Men’, is filmed in various locations across America, ranging from Alaska to as far as New Mexico and everywhere in between.
Winter is loosening its grip on the mountains of North America. But that doesn’t mean life for the #MountainMen is getting any easier. There's a lot at stake when all-new episodes premiere January 7 at 10/9c only on the HISTORY Channel! pic.twitter.com/HM7PdMyo1h
— Mountain Men (@MountainMen) December 23, 2020
So far, the series has documented the lives of fifteen individual subjects, either surviving alone or in groups. Since there are so many reality television shows found to falsify some of the ‘realities’ they depict, it would only be fair to be suspicious of ‘Mountain Men’.
However, it is safe to say that most of what happens on camera in ‘Mountain Men’ doesn’t get scripted, nor fabricated. That doesn’t mean, however, that the show isn’t guilty of exaggerating certain aspects for the sake of entertaining its audience. ‘Mountain Men’ certainly hides a few interesting secrets, and tries to manipulate their viewers one way or another.
Not to mention that the interesting and peculiar cast members who tend to be the focus of the show have a few secrets of their own. Naturally, mountain people face a certain amount of scrutiny and stereotyping, as many would consider them modern-day hermits.
One thing the show has achieved is to change society’s perspective of mountain people, but it still takes a certain kind of strange person to seclude oneself in the mountains.
A Pearl for a Diamond
The producers of ‘Mountain Men’, Warm Springs Production, were previously involved with another very successful reality series. However, due to poor decision making, they lost out on the most lucrative potential the previous show achieved.
Chris Richardson and Marc Pierce, the chief producers of Warm Springs Production responsible for the creation of ‘Mountain Men’, previously created ‘Duck Commander’,
a pre-sequel to the very successful ‘Duck Dynasty’. Of course, ‘Duck Commander’ enjoyed its fair share of success until A&E bought it out, and decided to reshape the concept of the show by expanding its focus to include more members of the star family.
Don't miss a new episode of Mountain Men tonight at 9/8c on HISTORY.
It was a decision that turned the show into an even bigger success, but unfortunately, neither Richardson nor Pierce played any role in the new creation. For some time, they sat on the sidelines, only able to reminisce about the success ‘Duck Commander’ once achieved, always searching for the next great idea that would become a big hit.
With the inception of ‘Mountain Men’, Chris and Marc once again proved their worth as producers, and this time around they certainly wouldn’t make the same mistake again. In the end, it seems they traded a pearl for a diamond, as ‘Mountain Men’ became a bigger success than ‘Duck Dynasty’.
Slip of the Tongue
The conditions by which modern mountain people live today may have changed, now allowing them to use conveniences such as electrical devices, satellite tracking systems, and even plumbing, but certain things would still be considered off-limits.
These luxuries include televisions and cable connections, yet one of the main cast members, Tom Oar and his wife Nancy, accidentally admitted to having such conveniences. Tom mentioned that they watch the show every week, which requires access to History Channel through a cable connection or another kind of streaming service.
While his slip of the tongue might have gone unnoticed by many viewers, the more observant followers certainly didn’t like the idea that self-proclaimed isolators have access to advanced television. No one knows, though, if Tom spoke the whole truth.
He might have been either told to mention it, or thought it would be an unnoticed lie. The only question to be asked, however, is where do people find the time to watch television when there are so many things to be done for the sake of survival.
Living out in the wild of nature requires a lot of effort, and anyone surviving deep in the mountains would probably not having the luxury of sitting around, much less cable television.
Regular viewers of the show would probably have noticed how ‘Mountain Men’ attempts to portray the dire circumstances of all the cast members. Nearly everyone involved on the show seems to be on the verge of financial failure, and even on the verge of starvation, especially if the next hunting season turns out poorly.
However, this may only be a dramatisation added in by the producers to keep the audience on the edge of their seat. While most of the cast don’t ask or receive large salaries, like many other reality stars they nonetheless gain some compensation for their appearances.
Many of the people involved have some form of additional money-making provisions, such as Eustace’s survival school, which undoubtedly gained exposure from their reality fame, and is doing even better than before.
Most of the people featured on the show are not nearly as down on their luck as the show wants people to believe, and some of the cast members are quite well-off. None of them is actually starving, homeless, or destitute.
Another exaggeration possibly added to the show by the production team is the portrayal of Tom’s dangerous life. Sure, living in the mountains, wild and free, holds many potential dangers.
Falling from great heights while out hiking could threaten one’s life, or even encountering a poisonous snake, or a spider in your bed, maybe even a stray bear attack, and yes, the list is quite long.
However, according to Tom, the dangers one crosses living in the mountains are hardly as frequent as shown on ‘Mountain Men’. Simply considering how bad one’s luck would have to be to encounter all the above-mentioned dangers in the same week, would make life appear to be a Terry Pratchet novel.
On the other hand, watching a show about a bunch of bearded old men strolling along a mountain hiking trail might not be as entertaining. A little exaggeration would not hurt the viewer ratings, and in some cases could be needed to spice up an episode or two, but, at times, it’s obvious that the producers can get a little carried away with the drama.
Toughing The Conditions
Of all the people involved in the creation of ‘Mountain Men’, the people who have it the toughest are the cameramen. It seems that working as a cameraman on the sets of reality television is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
Getting that perfect shot of all the action is not as easy as the crew might make it look. To be in the midst of all the action would certainly mean that the camera operator risks it with the stars of the show, surviving the same harsh condition.
Most of the settings, which are spread wide across the States, are actually isolated and far from modern civilisation.
This means that the camera operators have to spend most of their time while filming, camping out in the wilderness alongside the mountain men; not all of them have the luxury of retiring to a hotel room,
In fact, one of the camera crew members had an accident while filming in Alaska, and very nearly suffered a life-threatening experience when he fell into the icy waters while filming a scene.
Good Boys Never Stray
Building the drama in reality television requires a certain amount of skill, especially in the exaggeration of circumstances, and hoping they remain unnoticed. Successful attempts would certainly boost viewer interest, and maybe even grow the audience, but in ‘Mountain Men’, the producers don’t seem to make any attempt at disguising their efforts.
One of the recurring stars, Rich Lewis, is known and adored for keeping a pack of skilled hunting dogs.
However, a recurring theme in his daily life is an inability to keep constant track of all his dogs, and sometimes members of the pack don’t make it home for the night.
This, of course, is a concern for Lewis, and would certainly build the suspense for viewers, but all of it might simply be another exaggeration added in by the producers.
The worst part of it is that they believe that the audience would not notice the dramatisation behind all of it. Observant viewers would have noticed by now that all the dogs wear collars, and these collars come equipped with GPS tracking devices. Thus, Lewis is always aware of where his dogs are, and none of them have ever been lost, as the show suggests.
Eustace Conway is one of ‘Mountain Men’s” most beloved characters, and by character, it certainly implies that Eustace is full of character.
— Mountain Men (@MountainMen) August 6, 2020
Although an odd person considered a little eccentric at times, he is nonetheless likeable, and that’s why the audience appreciates his appearances on the show.
However, it doesn’t seem that Eustace’s ‘neighbours’ are as fond of him. In December of 2012, one of the relatively nearby residents, a lady by the name Margarate Palms, accused him of trespassing. Palms and Conway have disputed property boundaries for many years, and the drama between them became so bad that Eustace locked her gate so that she couldn’t leave her property.
Thankfully, for Eustace, that is, the trespassing case against him was eventually dismissed, but he simply won’t let up about the piece of land he believes belongs to him. The dispute over the land keeps going, and according to Mrs Palms, Eustace simply went nuts about it. Eustace never denied the things he’s done, which included posting harassment messages in her mailbox, and refusing to speak about the situation publicly.
Eustace’s main source of income is his school, where he teaches visitors the skills needed to survive in the wild without modern conveniences. Yet, like all facilities and businesses, regulations have to be met to ensure both the safety and comfort of your patrons, or in his case, students.
While his new-found fame as a reality television star attracted more business, unfortunately it also drew the interest of county officials. In 2012, they discovered numerous safety violations, and claimed that they were going to shut-down his school. Some might think that it was a silly story, but they build their investigations on legitimate reasons for concern.
During a demonstration of how to use a slingshot in a survival scenario, one of the students was accidentally shot in the eye, that caused the young woman in question to lose partial sight, and she went ahead to file a lawsuit against Eustace. Ultimately she won her case, and received appropriate compensation for her injury.
Due to a legal exemption awarded to him by the state of North Carolina, they allowed Eustace to keep the school open, and continue to teach from his property.
Lost and Found
Bill Heavey, a journalist sent by ‘Field and Stream’ magazine to interview ‘Mountain Men’ star Marty Meierotto, who lives in the far reaches of the Alaskan mountain territories, nearly lost his life in what would have seemed an easy job. Heavey was simply supposed to spend three days with Marty, compiling a full profile of the mountain dweller, but unfortunately, his employers sent him during the hardest possible time, the dead of winter.
He decided to go out and do some research on his own, but eventually his unfamiliarity with the Alaskan wilderness got him lost. Thankfully, Marty knew the surrounding area quite well and found the journalist before he came to any serious harm. Bill later admitted that he was uncertain if he would have made it through the night if Marty hadn’t rescued him.
Hopefully, at the end of the day, he got the story he wanted.
Jason’s Online Sales
While Tom refuses to have an online website on which to sell his merchandise, since it would violate the off-grid lifestyle he’s chosen, another star of the show, knife maker Jason Hawks, doesn’t seem to care about such violations. Jason continues to sell his products from a personally owned website, however, it’s not known who operates the site, and if someone else is responsible for it, so Jason might be excused.
Nonetheless, the fact that he uses advanced technology to improve his life is a violation of ‘Mountain Men’s” main concept. It seems then that life on the show is not actually as off-grid as advertised.
While some of these revealed secrets challenge the authenticity of the show’s reality, viewers can rest assured that the depictions filmed are as accurate as can be, despite a few exaggerations.