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EXETER â€“ For Walter Linton, there was no better time to be in the roadside hot dog business than last Saturday.
As an inordinate number of motorcycles and cars traveled down Ted Rod Road â€“ either heading toward or returning from the grand opening of Twisted Throttle, on Rt. 3 â€“ drivers suddenly found themselves a little hungry.
And there, standing in the parking lot of the long-closed Blueberry Hill Farm Country Store, was the electric-blue-and-white vision known as Waltâ€™s Hot Dogs. On a big day, heâ€™ll sell upward of 50 dogs and this was definitely a big day as dozens of the leather jacket legion pulled in for some of Waltâ€™s heaven on a bun.
The easy riders shared picnic table space, chatting with moms and little kids and everyone had a grand time.
Linton, who notes, â€śIâ€™ve lived in Exeter my whole life,â€ť took up vending in his retirement years. â€śItâ€™s workinâ€™ pretty good,â€ť he says. â€śIt helps out money-wise.â€ť
Waltâ€™s Hot Dogs, in business for five years, had a previous incarnation on South County Trail but a turf war broke out when another wiener purveyor set up shop immediately adjacent to him â€“ an issue about which Walt still gets a trifle hot under the collar.
â€śThey were trying to get my spot,â€ť he huffs. â€śBut they didnâ€™t have the licenses and permitsâ€ť they needed. Last fall, the matter became moot when the state Department of Transportation ran him off. â€śThey said theyâ€™d had complaints,â€ť he says in a distinct tone of disbelief.
Walt moved to the front of the Blueberry Hill space where he has parked his impossible-to-miss wooden shack which he and his wife, Margaret, purchased from a guy who used it to sell fried doughboys at a fairground. â€śWe remodeled inside,â€ť Margaret notes.
Thereâ€™s plenty of room for parking as well as the picnic table and a number of lawn chairs to accommodate the hot-stove group that gathers daily to debate the worldâ€™s problems and wave at passing traffic.
Residents recall a similar enclave formerly occupying the porch of the country store. Well, letâ€™s face it: this kind of rural fraternity is a requirement of doing business off the beaten path.
Unlike other vendors who venture off into burgers, sausage-and-peppers and even such chancy culinary creations as pulled pork sandwiches, Walt keeps it simple: hot dogs. Diners get a choice of toppings including chili, sauerkraut, onions, relish, ketchup and mustard. The $3 special includes a dog, a bag of chips and a soda; for $5 you get The Blue Shack Special â€“ chips, a drink and two dogs with what Walt calls â€śall the fixings.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ve got a mess of different chips,â€ť Walt declares and, indeed, his bounty includes a variety of potato chips, Cheetos and Nacho Cheese Doritos; beverages run from basic cola to grape, orange, root beer, bottled water and, for the morning regulars, coffee and packaged pastries. The featured goodies are Ăźmini-donuts, cream-filled chocolate Devil Dogs and individual fruit pies.
Walt says he knows how to cook things other than hot dogs â€“ â€śI can cook about anything, reallyâ€ť â€“ but Margaret points out, â€śHe doesnâ€™t cook at home.â€ť
The hot dog stand is open year-round and, to Waltâ€™s delight, has received a mention in The Boston Globe which noted that, besides the chow, the opinions are free.
The ultimate test of any cook is whether he eats his own food. The hot dog impresario of Ten Rod Road absolutely samples his wares. Frequently.
â€śI try different things on them,â€ť he explains. â€śIâ€™ll have mustard and onions or sauerkraut. Sometimes I just have them plain.â€ť
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for SRIN and can be reached at email@example.com.