Jack and Joe Musteen: Twins and Tough to Tell Apart

Jack and Joe Musteen were identical twins, dressed alike and enjoyed great advantage in being so hard to tell apart. Imagine two feisty, identical twins in constant motion, and you can understand why people had such trouble telling one from the other. Their children can usually study a photo like the one below and tell you which twin is on the right (Jack) or left (Joe).

Jack and Joe Musteen

Jack and Joe Musteen

In our small hometown of Rogers, AR, many simply greeted them by saying, “Hi, Twin.” My husband once waited for me outside a grocery store and said, “I saw your dad.” I had to smile. I’d seen him in the store, and it was actually Uncle Jack.

The twins were notorious for minor scrapes and could fool pretty much anyone. The brother who liked English in junior high attended twice a day, while the brother who liked math sat in both classes.

There’s a family tale about one twin being spanked twice when Grandpa grabbed one, while the other ran around the side of their barn. Grandpa thought the next boy was sobbing in anticipation and didn’t realize it was the twin he’d already punished. Both boys claimed to be the one who was thrashed twice, so we never got the true story.

Mrs. Rogers, our Guidance Counselor in junior high, was a teacher or counselor when Dad and Jack were in school. She told me once about an infamous disagreement. The twins were born in 1929, and Grandpa was still using horse-drawn equipment to grade county roads during the depression years. To make the boy’s shoes last longer, he tacked narrow strips of iron—left over from making horse shoes— around the toes of each boy’s sturdy leather shoes.

Jack (later a successful salesman) secured an usher job at the downtown Victory Theater, and Dad agreed to do both his and Jack’s home chores for half of Jack’s weekly wages. Everyone was happy until Jack received a 5-cent raise and neglected to advise Joe. Mrs. Rogers was present when Dad learned the terrible truth. She said he had Jack on the ground and was kicking him “for all he was worth” with those steel-toed shoes!

When both twins returned from the Korean War, they were at Grandma Musteen’s house for a few days to rest and visit with family. Grandma’s one bathroom was divided, with the sink and mirror facing the door, and the toilet and tub behind that wall. Mother was so embarrassed when she discovered that she had walked up behind Jack at the sink to hug him around the waist…Dad was behind the partition!

They sounded alike on the phone, too.

For a few years we lived on Hiway 94 at the edge of Rogers, AR city limits, and our huge front yard and gravel driveway would flood almost up to the house during heavy rains. It was great fun for the kids to scamper around in exciting water streams, less for Mother. Dad would often travel with teams of Bell Telephone colleagues for repair during storms or ice damage. Jack called once for Dad, and it was quite awhile before he could say over her irritated description of our home situation, “Anita, this is Jack.”

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2 thoughts on “Jack and Joe Musteen: Twins and Tough to Tell Apart

  1. My dad was Hubert Lee Musteen, brother to Jack and
    Joe. As the twins got older it was easier to tell them apart.
    Enjoyed your post.

    • Martha, you were living in another state when Uncle Jack once had hair weaving to look more youthful. Dad didn’t. I think Jack took some ribbing, and it was expensive and time consuming. For a short time, through, when Dad and Uncle Jack were in public together, they looked like a living advertisement for The Hair Club!

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