Tom and Nancy Oar had long been known to the worldwide audiences, ever since the inaugural episode of History Channel’s one-of-a-kind reality TV series entitled “Mountain Men,” which aired on 31 May 2012. The series has been going strong ever since, and the couple have become a hallmark of the title. They are both at an advanced age, however, which has led many to believe that the long years of living off the land have finally come to a close for the Oars.

Considering the fact that Tom is 80 years old in late August 2023, it makes perfect sense to infer that he is no longer suited for a life in the wilderness, which is the signature of this hit TV series. Many fans are sad to see the Oars go, but everyone understands it’s unrealistic to expect more screen time out of the seasoned couple, who had seen and done it all.

Then again, what would their incentive be for leaving the wild life behind? Forests and mountains are most of what the two have known for the majority of their time together, so what could ever be more enticing than wintry mornings and meat as fresh as it comes? The Oars answered that question in bits and pieces throughout the latter seasons, with mentions of Florida and a sunny retirement in the relentless heat of the tropics.

The secret to what they would ultimately decide lies in who Tom and Nancy really are, and those fans who paid close attention to the intricate developments of “Mountain Men” have never had to wonder what will take place in the upcoming 12th season.

Who really is Tom Oar?

The man whose story deeply intertwines with the rugged landscapes he calls home has lived a life of quiet adventure long before he gained any public recognition. Born on 20 February 1943, in Illinois USA, Oar’s journey to becoming a seasoned outdoorsman and survivalist began far from the limelight.

His formative years were marked by a deep fascination with the natural world, as he exhibited an innate curiosity about the outdoors very early on, spending his childhood exploring the woods, streams, and fields near his home. This curiosity was nurtured by his family’s modest lifestyle and their close relationship with the land, as well as his father’s passions.

Chike Oar merely took after his survivalist ancestors before his son Tom came around, having settled in a rural community in the aforementioned state, so as to hone invaluable self-reliance skills. As told by the “Mountain Men” star himself, his father was even shown on TV screens across the country throughout several wild west shows, having been the veritable image of an old-fashioned cowboy.

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Tom’s family relocated to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in his adolescence, which was a move that would prove pivotal in shaping his future. The vast and untamed wilderness surrounding his new home became an unconditional playground, where he gained essential survival knowledge.

His mother Mary Jance Crellin also turned out to have been a major positive influence, as she nurtured Tom’s love for horses, and her husband taught him how to perform tricks on a steed at merely age seven. This eventually led him to becoming a rodeo addict, frequenting numerous such events across the country and making a name for himself through both horse and bull riding.

Oar’s prowess gained wide recognition by the time he was 20, and it looked like the experienced rancher had found his true calling. He peaked throughout the ’60s and ’70s, often securing spots in the International Rodeo Association’s Top 10 list. Tom didn’t limit himself to broncos – he embraced bull riding in its fullest, even facing the grim specter of death as he chased the ultimate beast.

However, it became apparent that this career simply wasn’t meant to be Tom’s on 14 February 1978, when his head collided with a bull infamously known as Wolly Bugger, which rendered the daring rider unconscious. The untamed beast then proceeded to juggle the man’s body with its head’s devastating blows for just over two minutes, leading many to think that Oar was a goner.

He survived with severe injuries, in the form of heavy bruising and a life-altering concussion that almost left him bound to the wheelchair. Even though he returned to rodeo, Tom was no longer able to control beasts like he’d used to, causing his early retirement from the dangerous sport. This is when he permanently turned towards himself and the wilderness – the passion he follows even at 80 years of age.

Taking the forest path

With an unquenchable thirst for making the most out of nature, Oar devoured books and learned from seasoned outdoorsmen he encountered, expanding his expertise in tracking, hunting, and living off the land. This accumulation of experiences made him a seasoned remote dweller before most of his peers even knew how to properly start a fire.

The survivalist’s path led him to the heart of Montana’s Yaak River Valley, where he eventually decided to set down roots and built his own cabin by hand. This humble abode came to serve as the beginning of the path that would eventually get him to truly follow his father’s footsteps, and grace the TV screen as well.

Nancy was there every step of the way as well, having married him during the rodeo years. She fully committed to moving into nature with her husband, doing most of the light yet crucial housework around their unimposing property.

Tom adapted to the challenges of the wilderness far removed from modern convenience, mastering the art of crafting tools, building shelters in the middle of nowhere, and foraging for sustenance. This meant that even the house he built for the purpose would often be unused, as he regularly waded further than a day’s journey out into the unknown.

Becoming one with nature

Oar’s connection with the land deepened as he embraced the role of a trapper. He navigated treacherous terrain venturing into the unknown for months at a time, battling the elements and testing his mettle against the fickle nature of the wilderness. His skills in trapping and tanning hides not only sustained him, but also served as a means of income, having allowed him to cover for all other man-made necessities on the rare occasion when he would go into town and barter.

Although not regarded as highly as hunting with weapons, trapping is unarguably one of the most eco-friendly and cost-effective methods of procuring a livelihood in abject wilderness. That is beside the fact that catching a meal this way is of almost no consequence to the hunter whatsoever, since they’re far removed from the danger of the beasts at the time of their capture and pacification.

Trapping isn’t only a way to obtain meat – it is the pursuit of capturing animals for various purposes, ranging from sustenance to commerce; indigenous communities around the world employed this method as a means of securing food and clothing for many centuries. Passed down through countless generations, this technique greatly helped preserve the ancestral way of life, especially one that relies on intimate knowledge of wild ecosystems.

Tanning is a big part of the married couple’s life in the wilderness as well, since it allowed them to create the most valuable possible items out of every catch. This then turned into a steady source of income as commissions and trade deals started coming in, bolstering their allowance at the store whenever they chose to travel 50 miles (80km) to actually get to one.

The couple also came up with various ideas for clothing items made out of tanned leather, including shoes, pants and shirts. Their buckskin products found a bountiful market throughout the summer days, owing to the production quality and affordable price.

Winter was prime trapping and production time for the two, as even the shrewdest predators had no idea what kind of contraptions lay in the snow. This allowed the Oars to capture almost any creature that moved around their parts, resulting in an idyllic life in the wilderness that had everything to offer.

A master of the first techniques

Tom not only knows the entire wilderness around him like his own back pocket, he’s also very familiar with hunting methods generally known only to the indigenous tribes, which was showcased in History Channel’s video entitled “Mountain Men: Tom Assembles A Traditional Native American Lance (S7, E14) | History,” on 5 November 2018.

Oar is seen meticulously crafting a stone-bladed lance intended to fulfill a commission, gradually explaining the process as he goes along. He relayed that it’s necessary to create a notch which securely holds the lance’s point, achieved by using the now forgotten pitch glue. This sticky solution is a rather ancient and primitive adhesive, long ago employed by the native settlers of the land where Tom resides.

He details the ingredients of the recipe, which include lodgepole pine pitch, dried sap, powdered buffalo dung, charcoalized granulated eggshells, and a small amount of beeswax, all of which will combine into a strong binding fluid upon being heated.

The video introduces sinew as the material used to fasten the blade to the handle of the lance. This is then applied to secure the edge in place, and the hunting veteran takes the viewers through the process of attaching it.

Tom thereby discusses the application of pitch glue, emphasizing its role in waterproofing the sinew, which comes in quite handy when using the lance to fish or perforate wild animals on land. Nancy shows up as well, and expresses interest in assisting with crafting the commission, putting her glasses on to help her husband rectify any potential mistakes.

Oar then shifts his focus to creating a buffalo hand grip for the lance, explaining that Plains Indians traditionally added fur or buffalo hide to serve this purpose. He consequently plans on incorporating a similar lance base design, so as to honor the weapon’s inventors.

A single feather is added to the weapon as the ancient symbol of courage and strength that many Indian warriors prided themselves on. It’s also noted that eagle feathers aren’t used due to it being illegal to hunt them, and alternatives are thus employed, such as those of wild turkeys or game birds. The craftsman selects a particular feather that looks almost exactly like that of an immature golden eagle – just close enough.

He also showcases an ermine skin, explaining that most Native American weapons had ermine skins attached to them. He mentions that ermines were believed to hold power in the religions of the ancient natives, and thus their presence on the lance served as a connection to fearsome battle spirits.

This animal, small as it is, can easily kill critters four to five times its size. The ermine’s dominance in spite of weight and height discrepancies earned it the reputation of the ultimate predator among the ancient dwellers of the land. The video ultimately captures Tom’s branding of the lance handle, which lets every future admirer know who it was that made the fine weapon.

So, what are Tom and Nancy going to do after the show?

It’s unknown what the famous couple will get into after they stop appearing in “Mountain Men,” as they’re potentially set to be featured in its very next season as well. Owing to who they really are, and what their true calling is, it initially seems unlikely that they’ll be leaving the show anytime soon.

History Channel itself has Tom’s description page detail just what he did in 2022’s 11th installment of the reality series, letting the fans know that things aren’t looking their best for the seasoned duo.

However, things become clearer upon noticing the fact that Tom did have a heart disease flare-up, meaning that this life is no longer suited for his well-advanced age. It’s quite realistic to see the couple’s last season as already having taken place, meaning they would be moving onto less perilous conquests.

One such idea is Florida’s sunny Ocala, where Tom had the time of his life visiting his son Chad. The younger Oar grew up with his parents in the wilderness as well, but moved out during adolescence, as he had decided that isolation wasn’t his cup of tea. He eventually settled down in Ocala and opened up a business, at whose doors his parents are always welcome.

While there’s no official news as of yet, it’s assumed that Tom and Nancy will enjoy the rest of their days basking in the sun with Chad close by, finally taking their long-deserved rest from the incessant hustle of the wilderness.

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