Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

“Jimmie Freeman Came Today,” a new poem by Erwin A. Thompson tells the journey from slavery to property owner for one neighborhood family

Author Erwin A. Thompson

Erwin A. Thompson, my father, is the grandson of E. A. Riehl, who helped Sandy Freeman and his wife with the transition of moving from the bonds of slavery to the dignity of free people working for wages, bargaining for specified compensation for certain accomplishments, and becoming property owners.

Pop wrote this poem after Jimmie Freeman, Sandy's grandson (Charlie was his father), came to visit. Jimmie is in my generation. Both men are proud of their heritage. Pop wrote up the Freeman family history once, at Charlie's request. Pop was Jimmie's scout master when my brother was in scouts and I attended meetings often enough I might as well have been in his den.--JGR

Jimmie Freeman came today.
Our conversation drifted back to other times.
He re-lived his boyhood, -- the friendships
Between his ancestors and mine.

Troubled times, in (18)63,
With little time for mirth or joy.
They (The Freemans) broke the bonds of slavery,
Came to the free state of Illinois.

Their cheerfulness, their willingness to work,
Their dedication to the task at hand.
All fit the needs my Grandpa had,
To clear the brush, and till the land.

They shared the fun of hunting squirrels,
And training Sandy's hound.
In just five years the Freemans saved enough
To buy a piece of ground.

****** (Back to the present day) ****

We recalled his scouting days,
As only two "old timers" can,
He said they had given him dignity,
That he was as good as any man!

At Pere Marquette the night was cold,
'Twas not a time to loaf or brag.
Next morn I found the two of them
In Tommy's sleeping bag!

'Been forty years, they meet and laugh,
And joke for old times sake;
Remembering how things had been,
I thought my heart would break.

He fought in Viet Nam, and after that,
O'er the world he roamed;
In the Marines for twenty years
Then time to come back home.

Never one to just sit down,
Still with the urge to roam,
He drives the eighteen wheelers, now,
The highways are his home

His values shine above reproach,
He is a man, four square;
And if I ever need a friend
I know that he'll be there!

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2 Responses »

  1. It's moving to hear the story of a neighborhood across generations. Thanks, Mr. Thompson, for sharing your passion and knowledge with us.

  2. As usual, you capture your characters and the times so well! And what a unique history your families share in this time when a neighbor scarcely knows who lives next door. No wonder he came to visit! You are his family.

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