Mountain Men
Happy People

Dateline: 11 January 2015

This man is one of the so-called "Happy People"

I decided to watch Season 1 of the History Channel’s Mountain Men series last fall. It is available on Netflix, and it was something to do in the evenings when I was assembling my Classic American clothespins.

I was intrigued by the show because I saw that it had Eustace Conway in it. Some of you reading this may recall my review back in 2010 of The Last American Man, a book that pretty much idolizes Eustace Conway for being such a self-reliant and capable man, much like the woodsmen of old. In a civilization chock-full of helpless, dependent men, Conway is a standout. But I wasn’t persuaded that he was the best example of a man in all respects. My review is HERE (click and scroll down).

Nevertheless, Eustace Conway is an interesting fellow and I thought it would be fun to watch that Mountain Men show.

Well, I couldn’t get through the first season. I pretty much lost interest after the first show. I half-watched the second show. And that was enough for me. Mountain Men was much too contrived for my likes. “Hokey” is a word that comes to mind.

Now, mind you, I’m not questioning the bona fides of the three “mountain men” themselves. But the showbiz behind the program doesn’t do those guys any justice, or so it seems to me.

The phoniness of America’s television mountain men is particularly obvious when you compare the men and the lifestyles they live to the men and lifestyles of hardscrabble trappers in a remote Siberian outpost, as shown in the oddly-named four-part series, Happy People.

The men in Happy People are the real deal. Theirs is a true, modern-peasant lifestyle in which the community they are part of (men, women and children) lives in harmony with the seasons, deriving virtually all of it’s sustenance from the land (including the river they live on). This derived sustenance is mostly direct, though some is indirect through the sale of sable furs and sturgeon roe.

They “import” items like grain for bread, tobacco, fuel, machines and clothes, but one gets the clear impression that even if these things from the outside world were no longer available, the people of this community would still manage to get along pretty well. They are resourceful and resilient people.

Happy People fascinates me on so many different levels. I’d love to watch this program with a group of Christian-agrarian brethren and have a discussion afterwards. The bottom-line question for everyone would be...

Do you think that you could live the kind of lifestyle that people in a Siberian outpost do, and still be a Happy Person?

It is a question worth asking because people in post-industrial, neo-agrarian America may one day live in communities much like you see in this Happy People program.

Happy People can be seen on YouTube. Here are the links:

This is the man I want to hang out with if I ever end up in Siberia.


Mrs. G said...

How ironic that you posted about Eustace Conway, I was interested in TIP about a month ago until I read quite a few negative reviews by former interns. Granted, everyone has detractors, but the quantity of people that know or worked for him and say similar things is astounding. What he claims his life is and what it actually is are polar opposites. In the end it reminded me of the Nearings or Tasha Tudor, people that can spin a good story about their lifestyle to sell books. It's so sad.

Gorges Smythe said...

I agree with your take on "mountain Men."

Thinkin' Out Loud said...

I enjoyed the Happy People show much more than the Mountain Men Series. Mostly because Mountain Men had far more "drama" scenes than realism.

Vicki said...

Thank you for posting the links. I watched all four episodes today and really enjoyed them. The lives of those people in Siberia reminded me just a little bit of my ancestors who settled in Northern Minnesota and made their living partially by hunting and trapping as well as working in the woods as lumberjacks. They were tough, but not nearly as tough as the Russians. We could take a lesson about survival.

Mel said...

I found "Happy People" on Netflix a few weeks ago, and watched it with my girls during our afternoon homeschooling. Some types of documentaries don't hold their attention, but this did. They are 6 and 9. I enjoyed watching it with them.

KBCraig said...

I’ve watched Happy People several times on Netflix, and it’s always fascinated me. Then again, Werner Herzog doesn’t do anything that isn’t fascinating.

Pam Baker said...

So interesting that you mention Happy People. I started watching it yesterday morning but because it is heavily subtitled, I couldn't "watch it" while doing my chores and projects. I stumbled across something today you might find very interesting but I am having a difficult time finding links and info about it. It is on Pivot channel on cable. It is called "The History of the Earth" It is a documentary series and I watched Part 1 this morning-"Mother Earth" It is decidedly agrarian and not geological as you might think, and so very interesting. Hope you can find it.
And as for Mountain Men, I have watched many episodes and like all "reality" TV it is about the producer rather than what the "subject" would like it to be or anything resembling "reality" and therefore I take everything with a large grain of salt. I currently watch "Alaska: The Last Frontier" and enjoy it but again, take it with a large grain of salt. At least this season they are showcasing more homesteading focused activities other than just hunting, fishing and herding cows. Not that I am against those things by any means but I got about showing us other homestead skills and activities. I will say that the episode about bringing water into Eivin and Eve's home was excellent. I would love it if they spent more time having Eve talk about growing vegetables in a high tunnel/cold house in Alaska. Anyway, enough of my two cents worth....
Until next time,
Pam Baker
PS-hard to read the captcha letters to prove I am not a robot....(sigh)

Anonymous said...

This brings to mind the TV show on Discovery "Alaskan Bush People" with the Brown family. I know the Browns and have known them for a long time. They have never lived this lifestyle. The show is fabricated.

Jonathan Sanders said...

Your comments about Mountain Men remind me of PBS's 'Frontier House' "reality" series several years ago. I applied for the show, thinking that my family would be decent candidates. When I saw the final product, I was glad that we weren't chosen. They didn't choose the qualified, they chose the dramatic.
Jon S in Indiana

Anonymous said...

I have watched the first season of Mountain Men. I've known Tom & Nancy Oar for 20 + years (dog Ellie too) The show DOES NOT portray life in the Yaak Valley. This I do know, Tom & Nancy get all of our hides, they really do use them to make beautiful items, Toms knives are awesome. They are truly some of the nicest people you will ever meet, The best part? It hasn't changed them!! L in MT

lou said...

There is a documentary called Alone in The Wilderness that is worth watching.

Anonymous said...

If you enjoyed the Happy People videos, then maybe you would be inspired by this one as well: