The Great Hot Dog Bribe of 2000

When I first moved to Virginia in 2000, I worked as an Environmental Technician (and continued to for several years). One of the many tasks associated with this job was to build walking bridges, duck blinds, and bird houses in newly created wetlands. This meant that I spent a LOT of time at Home Depot buying wood and other materials. I was in the Land of Orange at least 3 times a week, no joke! But one visit in particular was far more interesting than all of the rest combined.

During the summer of 2000, I was sitting in a giant, clumsy 1991 Ford F250 company truck. I was parked at Home Depot, truck turned off, reading my receipt to make sure I didn’t get double charged for something. It was then I felt the truck move… it was so slight that I first thought a gust of wind was to blame. But a quick glance in the rear-view mirror let me know that another truck had just glanced my bumper. I got out of the truck to assess the damage. This old truck had been through hell already, and combined with the fact that it was built like a tank, there wasn’t even a scratch that I could notice. As I looked up, I noticed a VERY VERY large man walking up to me as he frantically said “I’m so sorry dude!”. He was flustered. He was in a hurry. He was anxious. He was stumbling with his words. He was paranoid. And he was also about 6’4” and 270 pounds. Literally the size of an NFL player.

He was talking fast, not completing sentences, and he seemed REALLY worried I was mad at him. “I was in a hurry… I was checking my phone and.. my wife is mad at me… I left her keys in the… I got pulled over on my way here and got a ticket.. It’s been a bad… I don’t want you to sue me for a neck injury. Come over here and let me give you a hot dog”. What?! Did this gigantic man just give me 13 reasons why he barely scuffed my truck and is now offering me a hot dog? Or is giving me a “hot dog” some kind of slang for kicking my ass?

It then started to make sense. He introduced himself as Tony Turk, and how he owned the hot dog stand in front of the Home Depot. Since it was late morning, I was getting hungry anyway so I took him up on his hot dog bribe. As I was waiting for him to fire up the grill, I found myself reading a dozen newspaper articles that were pinned up on the front of the hot dog stand. Most had a headline similar to “NFL Brother Combo Start Hot Dog Business”. The articles talked about Washington Redskins Dan and Matt Turk. I asked Tony if he was related. Turns out he was yet another gigantic child of the Turk family.

Although I didn’t know this at the time, the Turks were absolutely HATED by Redskin’s fans. Matt was a Pro Bowl punter, and older brother Dan was the long snapper. Dan botched several snaps during the ’99-’00 season, and worst of all, snapped so badly on what could have been a playoff game-winning 51-yard field goal that punter Brett Conway (Matt was traded to Miami earlier that year) could not get the kick off. The Redskins lost, and have never made it that deep in the playoffs since.

Tony stood there and told me stories of growing up with his brothers. All three were extremely close, and were still dealing with daily threats by psycho fans and people walking right up to them expressing their hatred. It was like the Turks had single handedly ruined an NFL franchise. Over the next several months, Tony and I became friends. He sometimes called me “Neck Brace” – his nickname for me in reference to how he thought I was going to walk up in a brace someday letting him know I was going to sue for physical damages caused by our “accident”. I talked to him several times a week at his Home Depot hot dog stand. He never charged me for a hot dog that summer, and trust me, I ate a LOT of hot dogs! Every week he had a new story to tell. Tales of closing down an entire local bowling alley so he and his infamous brothers could bowl a few games without being harassed. Stories of bar fights, where drunk fans thought it would be a good idea to start a fight with three men that look like Gladiators. Tony was proud of his family, and his love for his brothers shined through with every word. Plenty of funny stories, and even some sad ones mixed in.

Little did I know, that one of those sad stories was about to happen: Dan Turk got diagnosed with testicular cancer that summer. Although the Redskins had released him at season’s end and he could barely walk down the street without being yelled at, he had far bigger things to worry about. Unfortunately, Dan died in December of that same year.

The following summer, all of the Turk hot dog stands were gone. I went to several Home Depots in the area that he had worked trying to find the jovial Tony Turk slingin’ dogs. He was nowhere to be found. I’m not sure what became of the Turk brothers, but I’ll never forget the summer I spent hearing one of the happiest and saddest stories in NFL history.

I’m not a Redskin’s fan. But I am a fan of the Turks. And their free hot dogs. Thanks for the memories Tony, and I hope you and your family are doing well.

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