In 2006 the Australian daredevil Steve Irwin, a nature enthusiast, died as the result of a stingray attack. Known as the “crocodile man”, Irwin had for years diced with death, especially with crocodiles, as his fans saw on his various TV series. It was sad that he had to die the way he did, but some would say it was an expected death.

That could be the case when we look back, but you could not tell Irwin or his fans at the time about the dangers of playing with wild animals. It looks good on TV, but the dangers are real and now that the Irwin family is without a father and a husband, it is apparent just how unnecessary and unsafe some of Irwin’s demonstration were.

I saw a man chew glass in a magic act for a talent show audition. The judges quickly stopped him, because he was bleeding, yet he insisted he was fine.

Watching his stupid determination confirmed what I am writing about here: performers who risk their well-being to be successful in life.

This brings us to the matter at hand, The Legend of Shelby the Swamp Man, another show about a man living in otherwise impossible conditions. We remember Shelby Stanga from the hit series Ax Men when he and his team took us into the wild and showed us the lives of several logging teams as they went about their daily work. The emphasis was on showing us how dangerous tree felling is and how the loggers here were no ordinary men.

Now that Ax Men has run its course, Stanga feels there are many dangerous escapades he still has to show you, so The Legend of Shelby the Swamp Man is now upon us.

Having lived in the bayou since he was nine, Stanga knows little about the outside world and is fine with that. However, a hurricane destroyed his houseboat and there is no place in his immediate vicinity where he can get a replacement, so we see the man step out of his comfort zone to go into a world of escalators and lifts.

Few people understand his Southern accent, so it’s fun and games to watch him communicate.

But the journey will not start with him going to the airport and flying out. Stanga has to walk, barefoot as usual, through the surrounding communities, busying himself with whatever tasks come his way.

So you will see him working at an alligator farm, handling the beasts no one else dares to, then you will see him performing the fierce task of clearing out swamp rats in various people’s residences.

Although still technologically challenged and seemingly stuck in a different time period to us, one thing is for sure, Stanga makes Bear Grylls look like a novice.


• The Legend of Shelby the Swamp Man, January 16, 8.30pm on History (DStv channel 186).