"If my mother had gotten her way, I'd be playing piano today," says Dale, whose mother, Anita, is a gospel singer. Instead he chose to emulate his father, a champion fiddler who once played with the Sons of the Pioneers. Often away from home on tour, Dale Sr. taught his boy the basics of fiddling, then left him to learn the rest on his own. By age 10, when Dale joined his dad on a summer gig in Colorado, he was good enough to sit in with older musicians. "The first time I played for an audience," says Dale, "I was hooked."
Eventually Dale taught himself to play a half dozen other instruments. But fiddling remained his first love despite the indifference of his friends. "They didn't exactly do back flips over my playing," he recalls.
These days Dale's main ambition is to fiddle professionally. He's already performed live with country stars Dottie West and George (Goober) Lindsey. Dale is thinking of using his $1,400 contest winnings to cut his first solo album. But, he confides, "I'm also considering getting me a pickup. I might use the money for that."
On a visit to West Point last year, 18-year-old twins Nicole and Catherine Dekle met a cadet who was struck by their blond dazzle. "Gee, I never would have thought you two were so smart," he said after talking to the Savannah, Ga. high school seniors. The Dekles are used to such clichéd reactions from admirers. They've been known as beauties with brains since they entered the first grade. Now their success has been capped by a special honor. This year they were named among 141 Presidential Scholars—the first twins in the award's 21-year history.
The Dekles were singled out for the competition last February partly on the basis of their superb SAT scores (Nicole scored 800 in math and 730 in English; Catherine got 800 in English and 730 in math). They made the finals with essays on subjects they chose themselves, Nicole writing a humorous piece on "How To Escape Being a Twin," and Catherine examining "Individuality."
The only daughters of a high school history teacher and Savannah's first female stockbroker (who recently gave birth to a son at age 41), the twins grew up inseparable. They attended the same schools and took the same art, music and ballet classes. Until age 15 they both wanted to be dancers. Then a summer studying with professionals convinced them, says Nicole, "that dancing wouldn't be much fun to do all the time." Now Catherine wants to become a doctor and Nicole a research biologist.
The twins, who each received a $1,000 Presidential scholarship, are headed for college this fall, and for the first time they'll be going in separate directions. Nicole will be at Harvard, and her sister will be at Yale. "We'll miss each other," says Catherine, "but it'll be interesting to see what life is like without a twin."
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