Double Trouble

It's an inside joke, this thing about food, but in a way, it really did start with their guts. The Navy. Pearl Harbor. The USO. The billboard. Wal-Mart. For Dick and Doc Nash, poster boys from The Big One, it all came down to a full belly.

"Hell, yeah," says Dick.

"Hell, yeah," says Doc.

"Food is important."

"It all started with food."

Friday morning, not long ago

Dick and Doc sit in the basement of Doc's house in Littleton. Dick (Richard) sits on the couch, and Doc (Ralph) sits on the stool. Dick (the younger one) wears a green chief petty officer's windbreaker and a cap festooned with military medallions and pins. Doc (the older one) wears a blue chief petty officer's windbreaker and a cap also festooned with military medallions and pins. On the wall over Dick's shoulder hang photos, paintings and news clippings from World War II. And over Doc's shoulder hang even more photos, paintings and news clippings from World War II.

"I call this my 'ready room,'" says Dick.

"His 'ready room,'" says Doc.

Dick is 79 years old, and Doc is 79 years old. They're twins, born thirty minutes apart on March 3, 1920. If it weren't for the little brown mole on the left side of Doc's stomach, even their parents might not have been able to tell who was who.

"We're identical," says Dick. "Identical," says Doc.

"Pretty much alike in everything."

"We were womb mates."

When Dick tells a story -- and Dick likes to tell stories -- Doc listens politely and fidgets with his hands. And when Doc tells a story -- and he likes to tell stories, too -- it's Dick's turn to listen politely and fidget with his hands. From time to time, Dick answers for Doc, Doc answers for Dick, their words overlap, and because they sound exactly alike, it's hard to tell who's talking.

"We've always been like that," says Dick.

"If one of us takes too long to answer, the other one will finish," says Doc. "Identical twins are identical."

"When you get twins, strange things happen."

"We even have the same mole now."

On with the story

Dick and Doc grew up in Yankton, South Dakota, the youngest of six children born to a father who worked a cattle ranch and a mother who was a school superintendent. For fun in this quaint town of about 6,000 people, Dick and Doc hopped freight trains, ate corn from the fields and flattened the car tires of the guy across the street, Lawrence Welk.

"One time he came over and said, 'Mrs. Nash, if you don't do something with those twins, I'm going to kill them,'" says Dick.

"We were pretty wild," says Doc.

"Hellions," says Dick.

They were also pretty broke. During the Depression, there wasn't much work for a couple of kids from Yankton with few skills other than hopping freight trains and flattening tires, so in September 1939, after graduating from high school, Doc, who had taken military instruction as a student, decided to join the Coast Guard.

"You couldn't buy a job," says Doc.

"There weren't any jobs," says Dick. "Everyone left Yankton."

Dick left for Omaha, Nebraska, where he worked for 80 cents a day as a grocery store stock boy and for 50 cents a night as a movie theater bouncer.

"Hell, yes, a movie theater bouncer," says Dick. "You had drunks in there every night and kids screwing right there in the theater. It was by the stockyards. And each night after work, after I locked the theater, I had to run out to the street to catch the streetcar, because those bastards would be waiting to beat my ass."

One Saturday night, a week after Doc had joined the service, the bastards nearly succeeded in beating Dick's ass, and he, too, decided to join the Coast Guard.

"I'd had enough of that," says Dick.

"We wanted to see the world," says Doc.

"Hell, we were dry-land people. What the hell else was there to do?"

"We wanted to get room and board. We wanted to eat."

"We had got in the habit of eating."

"We knew if we joined the Navy, we'd always get chow. But if you joined the Army, you could be out there in a field somewhere with a canteen and who knows what else. In the Navy, you got three meals a day and $21 a month. To us, that looked awful good."

"Put it this way: Food is important."

"We went in there because we wanted to eat."