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Ear to the Ground

Koch vs. Koch, Circa 1940s

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Posted on Jun 19, 2014

    David and Bill Koch box as children. Image by Daniel Schulman/YouTube

In a May report published in Mother Jones, investigative reporter Daniel Schulman portrays two teenage members of the family of right-wing horrors fighting to resolve their problems—under the direction of their father.

Schulman narrates at Mother Jones:

MORRIS EASED THE PICKUP TRUCK to the side of the road. The wide, busy thoroughfares of 1950s Wichita, Kansas, were just five miles southwest, but here on the largely undeveloped outskirts of the city, near the Koch family’s 160-acre property, the landscape consisted of little more than flat, sun-bleached fields, etched here and there by dusty rural byways. The retired Marine, rangy and middle-aged, climbed out of the truck holding two sets of scuffed leather boxing gloves.

“Okay, boys,” he barked, “get outside and duke it out.” David and Bill, the teenage Koch twins, were at each other’s throats once again. Impossible to tell who or what had started it. But it seldom took much. The roots of the strife typically traced to some kind of competition—a game of hoops, a round of water polo in the family pool, a footrace. They were pathologically competitive, and David, a gifted athlete, often won. Everything seemed to come easier for him. Bill was just 19 minutes younger than his fraternal twin, but this solidified his role as the baby of the family. With a hair-trigger temper, he threw the tantrums to match.

David was more even-keeled than Bill, but he knew how to push his brother’s buttons. Once they got into it, neither backed down. Arguments between the twins, who shared a small room, their beds within pinching range, transcended routine sibling rivalry. Morris kept their boxing gloves close at hand to keep them from seriously injuring each other when their tiffs escalated into full-scale brawls. The brothers’ industrialist father had officially hired the ex-soldier to look after the grounds and livestock on the family’s compound. But his responsibilities also included chauffeuring the twins to movies and school events, and refereeing the fights that broke out unpredictably on these outings.

Morris laced up one brother, then the other. The boys, both lean and tall, squared off, and when Morris stepped clear, they traded a barrage of punches. A few minutes later, Morris reclaimed the gloves and the brothers piled breathlessly into the cab. He slipped back behind the wheel and pulled out onto the road.

See David and Bill Koch duke it out at a younger age in the video below and read about what the brothers grew into here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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