The gift of a story

Recently in my post The Decisive Moment I considered that moment when you make a decision to stay, or go from a situation, and what might result from your choice. And if you’ve read that post you may remember Chissoe D Iron, the man I met by chance, and allowed myself to be ‘taken’ by, ending up drinking beer with and talking about buffalo, for a long memorable day that stretched into evening.

Chissoe on the range © John MacPherson

Well I decided to use the web to see what had happened to him, on the off chance that he might pop up in a search.

He did.

Well a gravestone bearing his name did, recorded by an observant and community-spirited photographer then posted onto a memorial site.

I was intrigued as to whether this was the same man. The date of his birth made him about the right age. But he died young. Younger than his parents according to the information accompanying the photograph. I did more searching but could find nothing else.

Chissoe D Iron. RIP. © Aretta Saunders

I recalled he was a policeman in Ponca City, OK. so found the email address for the local Police Chief, and sent off my polite request for any information they might be able to provide about him, and the story of how we met. No reply. I tried again. No reply. So I looked up the Ponca City local administration and emailed them. No reply. I tried again. No reply. Ah well. At least I tried.

At Easter with some time to spare (watching video render, yawn) I started to follow some of the links provided by his parent’s names, which took me to some genealogical sites with other possibly related people. I searched on those, and went down several dead-ends, but after a while came up with a woman’s name that kept appearing.  Sandra Iron.

So I searched on that name, and came up with several phone numbers and addresses. But only one in  Ponca City. A few days later still swithering over whether to call or not, I decided to give her a ring. And got no reply. Tried later. No reply. I tried several times a day for a few days. No reply. No reply. No reply. No reply. Time to give up. But later on Easter Sunday afternoon I gave one final ring. And got an answer!

And a lovely warm conversation ensued. Sandra is Chissoe’s sister in law. And she confirmed that I had the right person, and that taking a stranger to drink beer and see buffalo is exactly what Chissoe would have done.

“He was a big generous lovely man” she said “everybody loved him”.

I asked how he died, and she told me

“He was diabetic, he was out doing something one holiday weekend, when nobody was about, and he cut his leg. Came back into the house not feeling well, laid down and bled to death. We found him on Monday morning. Everyone was so so sad.”

I remarked on the fine stone on his grave and Sandra laughed

“Oh that stone! Do you know, he found that piece of stone one day and put it in his big old pickup truck. He carted it around all the time with him, for years, moved it from truck to truck. And we asked him why he was so fond of it and he said “It’s my gravestone! I’ll have it on my grave when I go!” and of course we  all laughed at him. But he was serious you know. He was serious. So when he died, and he had a big funeral, we had his name put on his favourite stone and placed it on his grave. He’d have liked that.”

What started as a simple “hello” conversation had me sitting in the house with a tear in my eye.

We exchanged information about our respective lives, had a few laughs, I told her about my four year old son, and promised to try to meet at some point if we ever go to America. So now my wee boy William has a place in Ponca City to visit, someone to meet, and an ongoing tale that will perhaps take him somewhere he didn’t expect to be taken. One he can become a part of. And carry forwards.

The gift of a story.

Author — John Macpherson

John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 30 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

Discussion (6 Comments)

  1. Thank you so much for this beautiful story of my dear friend Chissoe. We were very close friends throughout the early years of my life. He was my friend, my protector, my brother and I loved him dearly.

    I had lost contact with him and heard from him one night and not too long after found out he had died and I had missed the funeral.

    Thank you this means so much to me to find out about my dear sweet friend. He was very much the same person as a young man as he was when you met him.

    • Hello Nancy – I’m so grateful to you for taking the time to write.

      I’m so pleased you found my story, and my follow up story too.

      I almost gave up phoning his sister-in-law but the story obviously wanted to be told.

      Please feel free to add any comments/memories that you think will paint a fuller picture of Chissoe. Just so you know I have been contacted by several people who were moved by my account, and his story.

      Thank you.

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