“You’re not Doris,” said Doris Reifschneider’s fiancé. “I know you’re trying to pull a fast one.”
He wasn’t wrong — despite Darline Dietz being a spitting image of Doris, she wasn’t his fiancé. Over the course of her 82 years on earth, Darline has pretended to be her twin sister a couple times.
“We did it in school one time,” said Darline. “The end of that turned out to be rather ugly.”
During an oral exam, the pair swapped seats.
“I, not being the most intelligent person, did not study,” said Darline. “Doris did.”
Every time the teacher would call on Doris, Darline would have to admit she didn’t know or lie and say she didn’t remember the answer. When he would call on Darline, Doris — who had studied — would answer the question.
Over and over, Darline was getting questions wrong under Doris’ name.
“Finally, she got fed up with getting a zero,” said Darline.
“You should have studied,” Doris said firmly, before chuckling.
Once again, the teacher called on Doris and before Darline could answer, Doris did, giving away the fact that they’d switched.
“We both got zeros,” Darline said. “He didn’t find any humor in it at all.”
The twins have found the humor in a lot of things since making an entrance in 1937. Their mother, who at that point couldn’t sleep laying down anymore, gave birth to them in their home east of Mitchell during a blizzard. First came Doris; Darline followed 80 minutes later.
“That was back in the day when there were no ultrasounds,” Doris said. “I don’t think our mother knew until a month before that she was having twins.”
Although it was likely a shock, their father was happy to welcome two daughters into the family instead of just one.
“Dad was really proud to be the father of twins,” Darline said. She laughed and added, “He was like, ‘That’s what I did,’ you know?”
Despite the rate of twin births being lower than they are today, twins weren’t a strange occurrence in their family.
“There are other twins in our families,” said Darline. “One of our uncles and aunts had three sets of twins and no single births.”
Doris and Darline were the only twins in their home, but they had three older brothers who treated them well.
“They worked hard for us,” said Doris.
During high school, the girls worked together to pass their classes and ended up graduating with the same scores.
“They should have been the same, because we had like four subjects in high school,” said Doris, who explained that they each took two subjects at a time. “I would study what I had and she would study what she had, then we’d exchange papers, change a few words and voilà, same grade.”
Darline said the twins enjoyed their childhood.
“We had a lot of fun growing up,” she said. “We grew up in a rather poor environment, but we didn’t know that. We always laughed and joked and we always had enough to eat.”
“Our mother sewed most of our clothes,” added Doris. “She’d make sure the store would save the same flour or sugar sacks so she could make us identical clothes.”
Their father insisted that the girls dressed alike until they graduated high school.
“After high school, we thought, ‘We’re going to start dressing differently,” said Doris. “It was hard to do that.”
“We’d go shopping and end up buying the same thing,” said Darline.
They don’t bother buying each other Christmas or birthday gifts for that reason. Even when Darline moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, and shopped in entirely different stores, they’d end up making the same purchases.
It was difficult for the twins when Darline moved.
“The challenging part of being a twin for me is being separated,” said Doris.
Darline agreed, saying the thing she missed most about home was Doris. She was grateful to see her twin more often when she moved back to the area.
“It’s just my own personal observation, but I think twins are closer than married couples are,” said Darline. “When you get married, you’re supposed to become one, you know, like the bible says. We started out as one. The bond was already there.”
Both women said their husbands didn’t get it.
“My late husband would say, ‘Why don’t you let Darline finish the question?’ and I would say, ‘because I don’t have to. I know what she’s going to ask,’” Doris said.
Several years ago, Doris was diagnosed with cancer.
“When you hear the word cancer, you feel like that’s a death sentence, you know?” she said.
Faced with her own mortality, she realized that after a lifetime together, she may be leaving her best friend behind. Darline wrote her a poem to try to express how she felt about the diagnosis.
“The highlight of her writing was, ‘Its so hard to be me without you,’” said Doris. “I think the challenging part is knowing that sooner or later, separation will take place and it’s going to be really hard for the person who is left behind.”
Doris is now cancer free, but the reality is that one of them is going to have to live without the other someday, she said.
“The older you get the evidence of dying is more prevalent that when you’re young,” said Darline.
Both women started laughing. “I mean, it’s looming out there somewhere.”
Along with being made more aware of dying as they’ve aged, they’ve also grown closer and share many of the same interests. The pair lives together, visits family together and eats dinner together.
“We started out a wombmates and now we’re roommates,” Doris said, laughing.
Each year, the women attend the Nebraska State Twin Convention together, where they join other twins in celebrating the fact that they have a twin by participating in contests, raising money for causes and dressing alike. This year, it was held in Grand Island.
“Each year they have a theme, this year it was movies and directors,” said Darline.
The pair each dressed as Phyllis Diller, a comedienne known for her eccentric stage persona and crazy hair style.
“We didn’t have a costume, when it was time to judge our age group, we asked the judges to give us a minute to get ready,” said Doris.
The women turned around and messed their hair up.
“We spiked it up and turned around with a sign that said, ‘Phyllis Diller,’” said Doris. “We didn’t win anything because we didn’t have an actual costume.”
They did earn the prize for twins that look the most alike in the 66 and over category. They poke fun at each other about their looks, sometimes, even though they look the same.
“There’s always a pretty one and an ugly one,” Doris joked.
“Sometimes, I look in the mirror and I think, ‘Someone looks just like me, poor thing,’” Darline said.
They both laughed.
The pair hope to have a local get together for twins and other multiples next summer.
“We’re the only set of twins from Scottsbluff,” said Doris. “There is a set from Alliance and a set from Ogallala. That’s it for Western Nebraska.”
She said anyone from the area interested in attending the Western Nebraska Twin Celebration can contact her or Darline at 632-3322 for details.
“There are a lot of twins in Scottsbluff and we would love to be able to take a bus load down to the convention,” said Doris.
Someday, the twins hope to attend the Twin Days Festival held every year in Twinsburg, Ohio.
“That’s on our bucket list,” said Doris. “Maybe we can get our kids to send us on our 85th.”