• Tom Oar is an unforgettable cast member of "Mountain Men" who has been part of the show since its premiere in 2012.
• He and his wife Nancy live in their north-western Montana home and are active cast members of “Mountain Men” in its 10th season.
• Tom is from a town nearby to Rockford, in Illinois, and was a rodeo cowboy in his younger years.
• He and Nancy make a living through crafting and selling hides and Tom's crafted clothes are now more sought-after than in the old days.
• The cast of "Mountain Men" live in a variety of locations around the US, including North Carolina, Alaska, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming.
It’s not a surprise that “Mountain Men” is full of memorable cast members. Starting with the fact that its stars are either naturalists, self-taught builders, trappers and even biologists, it’s hard to watch the show and not be completely enthralled by these guys and their out-of-the norm lifestyles.
Of all the cast members, Tom Oar is an unforgettable. It’s not only the fact he was in the show from the start that makes him special, but his backstory, life’s philosophy, craft and personality make him well deserving of being a fan favorite.
So, whatever is Tom Oar doing now? Is he still in the show nowadays or has he retired? Is he still living as a mountain man or has he changed his lifestyle? This and more we will tell you in this vid!
Where’s Tom Oar Nowadays?
Tom Oar has been in “Mountain Men” since its premiere in 2012, but there’s so much more than his longevity in the show that makes him a fan favorite.
Season after season, he and his wife Nancy have captured the hearts of the “Mountain Men” audience with their good sense of humor, humility, their vast knowledge of everything life-related, and in resume, for just being themselves.
Knowing that you’ve missed them dearly on TV, we have good news for you. Nowadays Tom Oar and Nancy are not only healthy and still living in their north-western Montana home, but are also active cast members of “Mountain Men” in its 10th season, premiered in mid-2021. As seen in the 10-episode long season, Tom and Nancy prepared for the upcoming winter, while also setting up their handmade leather crafts to exposure during a mountain trade fair featured in the season’s finale. This is fairly positive for the couple, as during the 2020 their small business was negatively affected by the COVID-19 contingency. Nonetheless, besides selling their creations locally, Tom’s traditional handmade blades are nowadays sold on sites such as Etsy and FineArtAmerica.
All in all, life seems to be going well for our favorite artisan couple.
Who Is Tom Oar?
Known for his wonderful personality and dedication to his craft, it’s normal to think that such a wonderful man as Tom Oar must have an endearing history. That assumption is not wrong at all.
Though we nowadays see him living in Montana’s mountains, Tom is actually from a town nearby to Rockford, in Illinois. As Tom recalled in an interview with City Lifestyle, his early childhood spent outdoors was both enjoyable and exciting, given that his father also instructed him and his brother in one dangerous craft: ‘my father taught us how to trick ride, which is doing tricks on the back of a running horse’.
Though becoming a cowboy at seven years old might not be usual nowadays, back in the day it fulfilled Tom’s wish for adrenaline which took him to become a rodeo rider at 15 years old.
Nonetheless, eventually growing restless, Tom and his wife exchanged the old-Illinois in favour of Montana’s very small town Troy, which they had come to know during their rodeo trips. Loading all their belongings onto a truck and spending whatever money they had been paid from selling their wares, the couple established their home near the Yaak River, starting what would be the adventure of their lives.
Admittedly, one of the most interesting things about Tom Oar is his past as a rodeo cowboy, though unbeknownst to many, most of his time riding bulls was spent in Ohio.
Taking his father’s brave example and his mother’s encouragement, at 15 years old Tom’s skills made him a champion in the International Rodeo Association, in which he competed for 17 years approximately: ‘I worked the saddle bronc riding and the bull riding.’ (…) ‘It was a fun life’, he told the Tribune in 2013.
Tom’s success in the rodeo field took him to many places all around the country, but his golden days on top of the ranks came to an end when he was 35 years old. As he recalls, in 1970 a bull named Woolly Bugger tossed him violently all around the arena when his rope got stuck on the animal’s back: ‘So now my legs and stuff are underneath his hind legs. He’s bucking and stepping on me quite hard’, he told City Lifestyle.
Though now Tom jokes that he gave Woolly concussion and that’s why the bull died two weeks after the incident, the episode wasn’t funny at all back then. Tom was left unconscious, and though he recovered from his injuries, that was the start of his path towards retirement.
What Did He Do For A Living?
After leaving the rodeo world in 1980, Tom and Nancy opted for a tranquil life in Troy. Even before establishing their new home in that almost insulated area, Troy had already been sustaining his family through crafting and selling hides for years.
As it happens, Tom learned the art of crafting leather very early in life with his family in Illinois. Nonetheless, what started with him making moccasins with commercial materials ended up in a full-fledged passion, when during a trip to Canada, Tom was taught to tan buckskin with animal brains. As he affirms, this ancient technique is not only less abrasive for not using the usual chemicals to dye leather, but it also improves the fabric’s quality, something he takes a lot of pride in: ‘Braintan buckskin is so far superior to any commercial stuff that they’re making nowadays. It’s a completely different thing,’ as he told AmericanCowboy.com.
Tom’s craft choice makes sense considering the path he chose in life, but making his buckskin art profitable wasn’t an easy task. For years, he sold at most $3,000 of his creations during artisans fairs, not making even $20,000 per year, leaving him and Nancy no other option than to support their household by trapping, and doing small jobs locally.
Debut On TV
Although Tom and Nancy Oar lived peacefully in Montana’s mountain for some time, their debut in “Mountain Men” surely brought many positive changes to their life.
The way they were discovered by TV producers is just as endearing as they are. As it happens, their neighbor Tim Linehan hosted a TV show for the non-profit organization Trout Unlimited and knew some people in the industry. It was Linehan who talked about Tom to the owner of Warm Springs Productions, who wanted to create a series showcasing people living in isolated and hardly-accessible places all around the US.
A crew eventually interviewed Tom and Nancy, took pics of their household and followed them around for an entire day. Not long afterwards, they were told that they fitted the show’s concept, but Tom couldn’t imagine how much “Mountain Men” would affect his life for the better.
Though he argues he just does the usual in front of cameras, and that his lifestyle hasn’t really changed, it’s also true that his crafted clothes are more sought-after than in the old days.
In Tom’s words, before the show his family was ‘trying to eke a living’, but now he receives calls from many places from people who want to wear his creations. As well, his stand in the fairs is more successful now, though that’s something which comes with being considered a local celebrity.
Why Tom Became A Mountain Man?
While many people assume Tom chose the lifestyle of a mountain man due to the downfall of his career as a cowboy, the truth is vastly more interesting.
Tom thinks of himself at heart as a man from very olden times. As he told the magazine American Cowboy, he feels having been born ‘150 or 200 years too late’ for his way of perceiving the world and his insistence on keeping traditions alive, whether it’s by trapping or through his abandoned rodeo career: ‘I always thought of the past and history. I’ve kind of relived it in a modern way’.
Just like anyone who’s deeply passionate about a job or hobby, Tom also has his own set of historically important people he deeply admires.
For one there’s Joe Meek, who’s still remembered for trapping Yellowstone’s mountains back in the early 1800s. Another one of those heroes is Jim Bridger, whose legacy as a legendary mountain man remains intact to this days. Tom’s admiration for Jedediah Smith’s traveling accomplishments is quite evident as well, though he argues that he doesn’t have a favorite out of the aforementioned men, as he regards their contributions as equally valuable.
Did He Want To Move From Montana?
Life in Troy in Montana hasn’t always been easy for Tom and Nancy Oar. As they often recall, their first winter there almost didn’t leave them out alive, which is even worse considering how difficult it was for their family to make a living out of their craft during those early days.
Regardless of those hardships, their life in Montana’s mountains is easier now for them than it was back then, not only because of their acquired experience, but for the positive impact that “Mountain Men” has had on their small business.
Nonetheless, rumors about Tom and Nancy leaving their apparently comfortable life in Troy to move with their adult children to a big city have been going on since the topic was brought out in “Mountain Men” in early seasons. However, those rumors were dismissed by Nancy herself in a 2019 interview with The Montanian, to whom she assured ‘We love Montana! We are not going anywhere! That is called fake news’.
While it’s known that Tom and Nancy’s children live in Illinois and Florida, it seems that the only logical reason for them to move there is their retirement, but even that doesn’t seem a possibility yet.
Where Do The Other “Mountain Men” Live?
If there’s something admirable about the production of “Mountain Men”, it’s how they went to the farthest and hardly accessible places all around the US to film the show’s cast.
For starters, Eustace Conway’s life in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains consists of taking care of his preserve Turtle Island, where he teaches survival skills to scouts and groups of all types.
For his part, Marty Meierotto spends his time in Two Rivers, a small town located near Fairbanks, Alaska. His family’s means of survival in such an isolated place consists of trapping and hunting, though Marty is fairly popular for flying his own aircraft. Morgan Beasley and the bear hunter Mike Horstman also reside in Alaska.
Closer to Tom Oar is Rich Lewis, who lived in the Ruby Valley, located near the Beaverhead National Forest in Montana. Also Near him is Jake Herak, whose home is in the Tobacco Root Mountains.
Kyle and Ben Bell reside in Cimarron Valley, a village in New Mexico, while Josh Kirk and his family live in Wyoming, up to the Wind River Range in the Rocky Mountains.
Last, the cattle ranchers and brothers Kidd and Harry Youren live in Sawtooth Wilderness, a protected area near Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains.
Did Someone Die In The Show?
The memorable cast member of “Mountain Men”, Preston Roberts, indeed passed away. He worked in the Turtle Island Preserve with his long-time friend Eustace Conway, with whom he was usually seen in the show.
Though Preston wasn’t a main star in “Mountain Men”, his sudden death was a big shock for fans of the show. Preston spent his last couple of months of life fighting cancer, which was caused by an incurable liver tumor.
His illness was so abrasive that only three weeks before his death, Preston had been actively working in the preserve before his health spiralled down. He died on 24 July 2017 in his North Carolina home, as an official statement read.
Tributes and words of condolence were soon to come from his former students, fans of the show and his friends. To honor him, a $1,000 scholarship in his name was set-up in support of high scholars interested in art and science careers.
Is “Mountain Men” Real?
“Mountain Men” is admittedly a breath of fresh air on today’s television. Just by showcasing real people with real struggles and a strong sense of independence on TV, sets the show apart from most productions of the reality genre.
Nonetheless, the question of whether “Mountain Men” has fake or staged aspects always comes to mind while discussing the quality of any reality TV show. Though there’s no a clear answer as to exactly which parts of the series are authentic situations, it’s thanks to Tom Oar that we know the show goes through some heavy editing: ‘They always have to make it seem more dangerous. I’m too boring otherwise’, he told the Tribune in 2013.
This doesn’t strip “Mountain Men” away from its credit though, as it’s the cast, their personalities and experiences that we actually love about it.