I have a fascination with anything involving people living in the wilds. If you can manage to live without the aid of supermarkets and a steady income in North America (or anywhere really), I just can’t help but be a little impressed. If this is something that intrigues you too, then Mountain Men season 1 from the history channel won’t disappoint. In it we follow the lives of three men who eke out their existence in some very different ways, but all primarily using the land around them to survive.
Eustace Conway, perhaps the most renown of the mountain men, is such an interesting character that this isn’t his first time in the limelight. Before Mountain Men, he was in two documentaries, a radio program and Author Elizabeth Gilbert, probably best known for her book Eat, Pray, Love, wrote a book about him called The Last American Man in 2002. He has been living on a 1000 acre property called the Turtle Island preserve in North Carolina for the past 30 years and his primary source of income, that purportedly averages out to about $2000 a year, is from selling firewood and lumber (he’s got an old style mill that he’s managed to rig up himself with hydro electricity using a stream on his property). He grows, hunts and preserves his own food and uses everything his environment has to offer, including natural remedies and animal sinew for sewing. He has opened his lifestyle to others to show them how to live this way, so some points of conflict for Eustace during the show are the people he has opened his home to, poachers and a letter from the government demanding back taxes or his land.
The next mountain man’s is Marty Meierotto, a trapper who spends months of the year away from his family trying to get fur in an extremely cold and remote area of Alaska. The only way in and out from his cabin in the woods is by airplane, which he owns and flys himself. Marty seems a bit of a whiz with machines, since he had to take apart and then put together his snow mobile, his main source of transportation, just to get it to his cabin since his plane can only handle so much weight. His main challenges in the show are mechanical failure, the weather and if he will find enough fur to support his family.
The final mountain man is Tom Oar, who has been living in the wilds of Montana for 35 years trapping and tanning and creating traditional clothing and accessories. His main worries on the show are getting in enough food to last the winter and getting enough supplies for his tanning and crafting while watching out for the wolves and bears who have been messing with his pigeons or ranging too close for comfort.
All in all, I found this show quite enjoyable. The characters and the situations they got themselves into, plus some fantastic scenery shots, were interesting to watch. Occasionally, the guys would also do things that seemed a bit…off, but that’s part of what I like about reality TV, people are weird, and watching them do weird stuff can be entertaining. Plus, should zombie apocalypse occur, there may have been a few good points in there to note.
The less enjoyable parts were how the show tried to force the drama by what seemed to me a bit of overemphasis on the “danger” of everything. Snowmobiling? It’s so dangerous! OMG was that a bear? So dangerous! Let’s watch them make a shed. Hammers are so dangerous! Yet, no mention was made of the danger when they canned some meat with black moons of dirt visible under all their nails. OK, so maybe it wasn’t so bad as all that, and there were some real dangers, but still. Enough already growly announcer guy, I get it.
So, if you’re interested in being entertained from the deep woods you can try this one on for size. Here’s a clip: