Spinster twins Bessie and Dessie kept the
By BILL WHITAKER
Even at age 90, spinster twins Bessie and Dessie Klepper can
wear a fellow out faster than your everyday, ordinary curmudgeon.
Although Abilene's most vintage old maid twins attribute their
long lives to "the Lord, three square meals a day and a good
walk every morning," I wouldn't be surprised if being totally
contrary - and for the sheer joy of it - has also had something
to do with it.
No wonder no one's ever dared write about this pair before.
If one of the Klepper twins wasn't threatening me, the other one
During the course of what one might only liberally call an
interview, the two switched off playing "good cop/bad cop"
on me. First Bessie refused to have anything to do with me and
only Dessie would answer questions, and when she did Bessie got
Then, in a move I almost failed to notice, the twins slyly
switched places and Bessie began answering questions and Dessie
refused to talk.
ONLY THE DOG KNOWS
To complicate matters further, they really are hard to tell
apart. With most twins you can usually pick up on something about
one - a distinguishing blemish, a weight difference, a skin hue
- but Bessie and Dessie look so much alike I'm told many of their
kinfolks can't tell one from the other.
"Even their daddy couldn't tell," Jan Tally said
of the twins and their father, a Callahan County rancher and one-time
deputy sheriff. "He lived with them from the day they were
born till the day he died, and he never could tell 'em apart."
"Our great nephew's little dog is the only one that can
tell us apart," Dessie volunteered at one point.
A family friend later explained this is because Bessie feeds
and pets the dog while Dessie shows it disdain at best. Anyway,
if kinfolks want to know whether they're talking to Bessie, it
helps to have the dog around because it'll cotton to her.
Considering the above, it may surprise you to learn I'd been
invited to the house on Grape Street - a home they've lived in
51 years now - during what appeared to be a very lively birthday
party attended by friends and family, including their 85-year-old
sister, Pearl Roberts.
No sooner had I entered than Pearl beseeched me to put a photo
of Bessie and Dessie into the newspaper, so the spinsters might
finally be married off.
Old photos reveal the Klepper twins were a fetching pair in
their youth. Ask why they never got married, though, and you open
up another can of worms.
"Well, it isn't any of their business," Dessie told
me, "but I guess nobody wanted a couple of ugly, red-headed
Bessie, however, confirmed what some of the other kinfolks
told me - mainly that the Klepper sisters have never been able
to resist the urge to mix things up. Maybe that's a natural drive
when you look exactly like someone else in West Texas.
At any rate, the girls would occasionally pull switcheroos
on their dates, so an innocent suitor (or even one not-so-innocent)
was never quite sure which girl he happened to have with him.
This reportedly created enough havoc and embarrassment for suitors
that the girls stayed single all their lives.
WOMAN'S WRATH TIMES TWO
If the girls created a lot of nonsense in their girlhood, they
certainly refused to tolerate it from others. When they were 6
or 7, they became so mad at their cousin Perry who broke their
dolls they put him in a tow-sack, set fire to it and threw it
over a barbed-wire fence.
At least, that's what kinfolks say - and the spinster sisters
do nothing to discourage the story.
Supposedly some parents on the scene at the time put out the
fire and rescued the lightly singed boy. But word of that kind
of thing will get around, especially if you're in Callahan County,
and so the girls have always represented a frightening challenge
for the opposite sex.
This much we can tell you. The twins did volunteer they were
born Nov. 30, 1906 on a ranch north of Clyde during a snowstorm,
that they each weighed a pound and a half at birth, and that Bessie
is the oldest, by about a half hour.
"Daddy put both of us in a shoebox for a bassinet,"
Besides themselves, they had a brother and sister who were
twins and their mother was a twin.
I also understand they've been members of Emmanuel Baptist
Church for 64 years, that they both worked in department stores
much of their lives (Bessie at Lintz, Dessie at Minter's) and
that, as contrary as they are, their kin relish them because there's
never a dull moment when they're around.
"It was a precious time," Dessie said after all the
company left and their 90th birthday bash came to an end. "But
then every day is precious to us - and we enjoy it."
Bill Whitaker, who understands the Klepper twins each got a
dollar for every year of their lives and are now expecting their
kinfolks to do the same next year, can be reached at 670-5293,
ext. 325. Or you can e-mail him at WTWARN@aol.com.
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Copyright ©1996 or
1997, Abilene Reporter-News / Texnews / E.W. Scripps. Publications