• Tom Oar is an unlikely reality TV star and artisanal product maker.
• He stars in the History Channel show "Mountain Men" alongside fellow cast members such as Eustace Conway and Morgan Beasley.
• Rich Lewis was already a local celebrity in Montana before the show, having saved the day by trapping and killing a mountain lion.
• Rumors suggest the show is scripted or staged and cast members are wealthier than portrayed.
• Off-Grid website users are skeptical of the show and its authenticity.
Who is Tom Oar?
Tom was born in 1943 in Illinois, USA. The unlikely reality TV star is the son of Chike Oar, who starred in the US Wild West shows that were popular from the 1870s to the 1920s. Little is known about Tom’s childhood and adolescent years; in his early 20s, he started combo riding but stopped for health reasons, and chose to settle down in Montana’s Yaak River Valley with his wife Nancy.
Tom and Nancy’s unconventional new home was a cabin 50 miles away from the nearest food store. However, they had little need for Walmart or Costco, as both knew how to hunt, gather, and make their own food. The couple used tanned deer skins to make artisanal products – mainly clothing items such as trousers, moccasins and jackets – which they would then sell every time they visited town.
Despite having no professional training, Tom is considered one of the best animal skin tanners in the country. He and Nancy began receiving orders for hundreds of products, and could hardly keep up with the high demand. Somehow, the couple also found time to bear and raise three children named Chad, Jack and Keelie, but who all moved to Chicago in their early adulthood.
Tom and Nancy led a relatively tranquil life until the early 2010s, when they were approached by the creators of the History channel reality series “Mountain Men”. Tom is one of the stars of the show alongside Jason Hawk, Morgan Beasley and others; Nancy and the second-generation Oars prefer to appear only sporadically.
The former rodeo cowboy and his wife were allegedly considering a move to Florida; however, they had a change of heart and were seen in the season 11 premiere of “Mountain Men”, preparing for the Yaak River Valley’s harsh, long winter. In the second episode of the latest season, Tom and his longtime partner Sean McAfee were reunited, and set up their annual winter trap line.
Tom is a laidback individual who needs little in life to be happy; despite being a household name for millions of viewers, he gives few interviews and sees no need to be in the spotlight. In a rare 2019 interview, he shared that he and Nancy had been visited by hundreds of fans over the years, including honeymooners from Switzerland.
“The fans are really important to me, and that’s really neat to meet all the different people and talk to ‘em,” Tom added – “There’s always somethin’ of interest, and there’s always interesting people to meet.” He also spoke about his possible intentions of retiring. As it happens, viewers of “Mountain Men” were shocked to learn of the tanner’s serious health problems, which forced him and Nancy to leave the comfort of their cabin and make an 80-mile journey to the nearest health clinic.
In the fourth episode of season 11, Tom woke up in the middle of the night unable to catch his breath. Cardiologists discovered that fluid was settling in the TV star’s lungs, and his heart wasn’t functioning properly. Tom was put on heart medication and instructed to wear a heart rate monitor; the cardiologists also wanted him to wear a defibrillator vest.
The last update regarding Tom’s health came in late September 2022. He and Nancy have yet to share if they will return to “Mountain Men” for its twelfth season, or finally retire.
“Mountain Men” Cast
The reality series “Mountain Men” premiered on the History Channel in May 2012, and follows its unconventional and mostly male cast, which is scattered around various states. If the title wasn’t clue enough, the Mountain Men live without the daily comforts the general public is used to, and must rely on their tenacity and skills to survive and thrive, but are actually happy with their lifestyle.
One of the main cast members is Eustace Conway, who lives on a plot of land in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains that he has affectionately nicknamed Turtle Island. To make a living, Eustace teaches basic wilderness survival skills, and harvests firewood using ancient techniques. Preston Roberts, Eustace’s friend, frequently appeared in the series until his death in 2017. One of the main obstacles Eustace has had to overcome is the fight to maintain ownership of his land, after being threatened by a lien against it.
Next is Marty Meierotto, who lives with his wife Dominique and daughter Noah in the minuscule town of Two Rivers, Alaska. Once a month, he flies his small aircraft to the Alaska North Slope where he has a cabin, and collects fur using animal traps. Naturally, Marty is used to maneuvering snowmobiles and withstanding harsh weather conditions as part of his job.
The mountain lion hunter Rich Lewis and his wife Diana live in Ruby Valley, Montana. Rich has a loyal team of hounds to help him track mountain lions; however, he bowed out after a few seasons to lead a more comfortable lifestyle in his golden years. Jake Herak is a fellow mountain lion hunter who lives in the Tobacco Root Mountains of Montana.
George Michaud and Charlie Tucker are the show’s resident fur trappers. George, who is based in Idaho, camps along the Teton Range and Snake River, whereas Charlie lives near Maine’s Great North Woods and often teams up with Jim Dumond.
Kyle Bell lives in Cimarron Valley, New Mexico, with his young son Ben. A game hunter and outfitter, Kyle works across 45,000 acres of land, and juggles fatherhood with his difficult trade. Meanwhile, Morgan Beasley and his partner, Margaret Stern, are licensed bush pilots who live in the Alaska Range.
Jason Hawk and his family live near The Ozarks, Arkansas. A master blacksmith, Jason has his own business named Jason Hawk’s Outlaw Forge Works. Thousands of miles away, Mike Horstman is a bear hunting guide who lives on Alaska’s Kodiak Island with his beloved dog Adele.
Josh Kirk, his wife Bonnie, and their daughter Eden live in Wind River Range, Wyoming. Josh is a ranch manager and game hunter, while Bonnie devotes herself to taking care of Eden. Last but not least are Kidd and Harry Youren, two brothers who work as game hunters and cattle ranchers in the rugged Sawtooth Wilderness of Idaho.
The Truth about “Mountain Men”
Almost all the cast members of “Mountain Men” are private individuals, who like peace and quiet when filming wraps up. For this reason, fans don’t know much about the reality stars’ lives behind the scenes. Nevertheless, we’ve managed to gather up interesting trivia about the show, and the men who star in it.
Eustace was inspired by Henry David Thoreau to run a nature school on his property, and it was a roaring success for over two decades. However, county officials claimed to have discovered safety violations, and shut the school down in February 2012. The sudden crackdown came as a shock to Eustace and his staff, as no safety violations had ever been found during prior inspections. Eustace took the case to court and won, as the state of North Carolina passed a law the following year which provided an exemption for his school.
Months later, a neighborly dispute between Eustace and a woman named Margaret Palms soon turned ugly. In an interview with The High Country Press, Margaret claimed that she and Eustace had been good friends until he disputed the property line they’d peacefully shared for years. According to Margaret, in December 2012 Eustace “went nuts”, adding: “He went and tied our gate shut, so we couldn’t get out and he put posters all over our gates, mailboxes, fences. Then he put up big wooden barriers, so we couldn’t get out.” Luckily, the trespassing charges against Eustace were dropped in May 2013, due to insufficient evidence.
Why did Rich Lewis leave Mountain Men? More on his wildlife in Montana!#RichLewis #RichLewisMountainMen #RichLewisWildLife #RichLewisDogs #RichLewis2018 #eCelebrityFacts
Watch to Find Out:https://t.co/AZgWVrYiQU pic.twitter.com/YLjmvzCRQ3
— eCelebrityFacts (@ecelebrityfacts) September 4, 2018
Rich Lewis is one cast member who was already a local celebrity before shooting to mainstream fame thanks to “Mountain Men”. In 2007, a mountain lion killed two dogs in Twin Bridges, Montana; the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks reached an agreement with Rich, which allowed him to hunt down the dangerous animal. Rich’s skills saved the day, and prevented a tragedy from occurring in Twin Bridges, as he was able to trap and kill the animal in record time.
Rich is clearly a beloved figure on the show, as when his loyal dog died in season four, three fans of the show travelled 1,700 miles to visit him on his homestead, bringing with them a new canine companion. The heartfelt gesture wasn’t lost on Rich, who was extremely grateful.
Sadly, it’s not all good news for the show, as various news outlets have reported its scripted or staged elements. Tom Oar himself is quoted as saying: “They always have to make it seem more dangerous. I’m too boring otherwise,” and shared that the show’s producers went so far as to edit in shots of bears, and pretend that they were on his property.
Eustace also confessed to something similar in his biography, “The Last American Man”, which was written by Elizabeth Gilbert and published by The Associated Press. Eustace told Elizabeth that every time he went out in public, he would “deliberately try to present myself as this wild guy who just came down off the mountain, and I’m aware that it’s largely an act.”
The show also portrays its cast members as totally off-the-grid individuals, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet. The reality is that this is a long way from the truth. Tom previously admitted that, despite living in an area with limited internet access and no cellphone service, he and Nancy watched “Mountain Men” together every Sunday night… and even if some cast members are relying on paychecks from the History Channel to stay afloat, others such as Eustace, are believed to be worth well over six figures.
Eustace is believed to be the richest cast member, as prices for his workshops start at $300 per person. Obviously, the History Channel has downplayed Eustace’s wealth, and the TV star’s official “Mountain Men” bio claims that he had to rely on a grassroots lumber operation to secure his financial future. Kyle Bell is also believed to be a millionaire thanks to his business, Folsom Outfitters, which charges up to thousands of dollars for its services.
As mentioned, a pivotal part of Eustace’s early storyline on the show was the “man versus government” angle. In episode two of the first season, he was filmed reading a letter in which the government threatened to take his property if he didn’t pay his taxes. As it happens, Eustace was entrenched in a legal battle at the time, but with a woman named Kimberly Baker.
Kimberly had visited Eustace’s Turtle Island school in 2015, and was struck with a stray rock during a slingshot demonstration that left her with permanent blindness in her right eye. Naturally, she filed a lawsuit which was settled by Eustace and his employees. The reality TV star agreed to a mediated settlement of $75,000, and was supposed to mortgage part of his property to get the money.
As Kimberly failed to receive payment, she took Eustace to court, but it would take him until April 2012 to pay up. During this time, Eustace was filming for “Mountain Men”, but the show made him out to be an innocent victim who had done nothing wrong. Eustace was later asked about Kimberly’s lawsuit, but gave a vague answer, and claimed that his contract with the History Channel prevented him from speaking on the matter.
Users of Off-Grid, a website that prides itself on providing updates and reports about the off-grid community, are highly skeptical about the Mountain Men and their authenticity. Some netizens claim that Eustace tried to pass off a Lyman rifle as a handmade one, whereas others have made scathing comments such as: “These guys stumble from one problem to the next as if they are missing half their brains. Why would anyone live like that? If this was real they should all be dead already and the show should have been over long ago.”
Whatever the case, “Mountain Men” remains popular within its target demographic, and looks like it’s here to stay on the screen.