If ever there were a monument that offers food for thought it is that of Jimmy Good, late of the vicinity of Luray, Virginia (figure 1). That Confederate battle flag is trying to preemptively seize our attention, but I note first that he died at the age of 18 on July 4, which made me sad when I saw it. Had he fallen in Pickett’s charge, 137 years and one day earlier, he would have been born in April 1845, which is right in the sweet spot for birthdates of Civil War casualties. In Jimmy’s case, one suspects some sort of accident connected with celebrating the 4th, but you never know.
The Confederate battle flag is hard to defend as a choice for a tombstone. I’ve seen others, but this is probably the most prominent, with Jimmy’s picture (figure 3) lovingly added on top of it. Perhaps, as is not unlikely, he had ancestors who fought in the war. His grave is surrounded by other Goods; many had been soldiers.
The gifts are an odd lot. A few seem to me to indicate Jimmy’s interests (the little Confederate soldiers, the race car), but others pious sentimental offerings from parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews. Interesting that there is no overt religious sentiment in a cemetery otherwise brimming with it.
Do you notice that the grave is well tended? The artificial flowers are “fresh,” i.e., not covered in dust, not blown askew by the winds of early spring and winter. The polished black stone is clean. His parents spent a lot of money on Jimmy’s monument. I have a child Jimmy’s age: I get it.
The rear of the stone (figure 2) contains evidence of two of Jimmy’s passions: cars and (one imagines) football, to judge by the Oakland Raiders‘ helmet labeled Goodies Team. His taste in cars ran to 1970 Chevy Novas. That’s him in the one at top left, in sunglasses. Note the battle flag on the hood of his car makes it clear that the bottom image of a Nova is the same car. As to the race car in the center, I confess the last races I was interested in featured Freddie Lorenzen as a driver, so I must leave identification as an exercise for the reader. And now a reader more learned than I has informed me that the car with the number 3 is an allusion to the great Dale Earnhardt, jr., which makes a lot of sense.
The family or some other well-wisher has placed a solar lamp behind the stone where it will cast a homely glow. I’ve seen a lot of solar-powered electrical gear recently in cemeteries, especially around Christmases.