A tale of double-good, double-fun lives!

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Tom and Ola Forbes, identical twins, celebrate Birthday No. 87

Ola on the guitar with Tom on dobro, performing during ‘Music on the Streets in downtown Washington.

By Ola Forbes, Jr.

Taken around age 17 on a dairy near Blackjack, Ola is on the left.

In a sharecropper shack shaded by spreading pecan trees three miles west of Greenville on NC 43 West, Dr. Skinner and nurse Allie Clark attended mom giving birth. Tom H. Forbes gained entrance at 6 A.M. “Another one is coming, Mr. Forbes!” Dr. Skinner shouted to dad, lingering unknowingly in another room.

At 9 A.M. I – Ola Forbes, Jr. – arrived with no breath. Allie ungently ordered: “Two containers of water, one cold, one warm, hurry!”. Alternate dipping turned me from blue to pink. That day dawned October 18, 1932, a day of lingering Depression for many; and, for sharecroppers, more lingering.

Their father raised Bassett Hounds. Tom is on the left.

My earliest memory happened in mom’s kitchen while she cooked on a wood-burning stove. Tom and I sat on the floor near the oven door which slammed open, and out billowed black smoke curling across the ceiling. Mom screamed. Dad rushed in and discovered that the flashlight batteries he intended to recharge had overheated, spoiling his coon-hunting plans for the evening.


Dad followed the compass around to Pitt County tobacco farms from year to year until we came to Greenhill Dairy in 1945 where he settled for six years.

He put me on a riding breaking plow; told me to keep “steady turning.” And so I did when the lines to the mules hung on a piece of metal, turning them constantly to the left, furrowing cursive e’s throughout the soft field. I was six years old.

Tom had his turn during his task of driving a tobacco trans-planter. Too short to sit in the seat, a burlap bag was rigged against the water barrel. His hands blistered holding the team back for proper planting. Mom gave him a pair of mittens for driving the next day.

In 1944, while farming near Bethel, we got our first tractor, a small Ferguson. Dad sent Tom and me with the tractor and wagon to a slaughterhouse in Bethel to bring back an odoriferous load of offal from cows and hogs processed there, including heads and feet. We dumped it in the back field next to the woods where his coonhounds gorged along with buzzards crow-hopping from the snarling hounds. The buzzards were beautiful to me, and I was sorry when everything had been eaten and the bones lay scattered and there were no more buzzards.

Which is which? Old photos often had names scribbled. Here, Tom is on the left.

Highway US 13, linking Bethel with Greenville, crosses Grindle Creek bridge where Tom and I wrecked the tractor. We pulled a wagon load of Staton Sawmill slabs for curing tobacco. Tom drove. I lay resting atop the slabs. There being a sharp difference in level from highway to bridge surface, the bolt that connected the tongue to drawbar bounced out. Tom, seeing the wagon drifting left toward an embankment, shifted to neutral and sprang off, securing the wagon and me. Instantly, he turned to the drifting tractor targeting the right embankment. Unbelievably he scurried in front and braced against the radiator to no avail. Down it went with a jolt that lifted both near tires off the ground. How this 11-year-old escaped serious injury remains yet a mystery.

From Bethel, we moved to Greenhill Dairy, the community into which we were born, thus completing the circle of the county compass. Dad was sent by Carolina Dairies of Greenville to Wisconsin to purchase a herd of Holsteins with which he traveled in a cattle car to assist in their birthing. A crude bunk above the herd afforded a resting place for him.

We grew fond of some cows, but not the kickers. Texas, so named for being the biggest among the herd, stepped on my bare big toe and leaned heavily against me as I attempted to push her off.

We entered adolescence, growing up with young neighbors about our age. Many were the compensations while milking twice a day for several years. We loved the “low-grounds” of stately cypress and swamps and paths that led to Tar River. We trapped muskrat and mink, and searched for arrowheads on a sandy hill.

Our moving around the county gave Tom and me opportunity to attend schools at Falkland, Grimesland, Ayden, Stokes, Bethel, Belvoir, Greenville and Chicod. We met new teachers, new girls, and new bulky bullies. Third Street Elementary in Greenville produced the biggest upcoming linebacker of all. Last class in the eighth grade, he, sitting in the back, pointed at me down his ridged arm and mouthed silently. “I’m going to beat you after school.” He swaggered out on Third Street, which cascaded down to a railroad crossing. We exploded on him, never letting up while backing him down to the railroad. He stood stunned and silent as we walked away, never bothering us again.

There was a swimming pool at a summer cottage across from Greenhill, which belonged to an auto dealership family in Greenville. They came out on Friday and left on Sunday afternoon. After milking duties on hot summer afternoons, we’d slip across the road and splash around in their fabulous ground-level pool. We never saw them, and, thankfully, they never discovered our trespass.

We arrived at dating age, once pulling an ‘identical-twin’ switch on two unsuspecting ladies. Across the Green Street river bridge Clark’s offered refreshments. Preplanned, Tom wore a red coat and I a blue one. Inside, while ordering cokes, we switched coats, also switching girls back at the car. They never had a clue. We ‘double-double dated.’

In 1950 Dad moved to Morehead City where Tom and I milked our last cows on Crab Point. Following summer milkings, we drove over to Emerald Isle to cool off in the surf and tour Fort Macon, a ghost fortress of prolific weeds, hot sand and scattered brick.

Being a twin has been a great life, especially, since Tom is the other guy!

About Ola and Tom Forbes: Tom is a retired Tobacco Buyer and currently lives in Beaufort County. Ola is a retired school teacher and current minister of Wayside Presbyterian Church in Chocowinity, N.C. Both have enjoyed playing together guitar and dobro.