Just the other day, I was driving back from Boulder when my daughter made what must have been her thousandth remark about the little lone gravesite on the side of U.S. 36 at the Highway 287 off-ramp. If there's one thing the average commuter knows Broomfield for, it's that odd gravestone, surrounded by a tiny iron fence, that random people decorate every holiday. Little flags for July 4th, tinsel and ornaments during Christmas.
But no more. That curious grave -- where Shep the dog was buried -- was relocated yesterday to make way for a road expansion. Which sucks.
I spent some of my elementary-school years in Broomfield, where the story behind that grave is literally part of the local curriculum. It goes back to when U.S. 36 was a toll road known as the Boulder Turnpike. Toll booth operators discovered a stray shepard dog one day and named him Shep. The dog would hang around and workers would feed him. Eventually, he became such a familiar sight to workers and drivers that Shep was known mini-mascot for the toll area.
When Shep died in the mid-'60s, highway workers built the little grave for him. Ever since, it's been a conversation piece for drivers and a unique connection for residents to a time when Broomfield was a small community rather than the mass of sprawl it is today.
I guess I'm glad Shep's grave was moved next to the Broomfield Depot Museum instead of being plowed over and discarded. But aside from the fact that I lost a fun little topic to talk about with my daughter and friends while driving the increasingly crowded highway, I feel sad that Shep's ongoing connection with locals has been severed and stuck permanently in the category of "history."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.