It’s not the homecoming he planned, but the circumstances surrounding his return give Richard McCasland a point of view he’d never much considered about his hometown.
The former Mountain View High School football player who graduated in 1978 and went on to a successful career as an Army officer and sales and management professional in dermatology and orthopedics came home just last summer to be closer to family and the land of his youth.
During the last three weeks, McCasland has reflected frequently on the goodness of a community that he says has treated him as though he’d never been gone.
He’d not been feeling well for several days and was experiencing gum bleeding when his sisters encouraged him to seek out some medical opinions. It was a Tuesday when McCasland visited nurse practitioner Callie Taylor who did some extensive blood work and testing and said they’d wait for the results. A part of the equation was McCasland’s history as a tongue cancer patient a year earlier; however, a series of treatments were believed to have put him in the clear, he said.
He received a message the following day when Taylor called him as he was attending the First Assembly of God Church Wednesday night service with a friend.
“We need you to come back in for more testing,” Taylor’s message said. “These number are so low, there’s no way they can be right.”
But they were.
“Because of her follow-through and her care, it might be the reason I’m alive today,” McCasland said of Taylor. “She was just at home with her family on a Wednesday night, and cared enough to reach out and get me back in the next day. She knew something wasn’t right.”
This was the moment McCasland’s life took a radical turn from the peaceful retirement he’d planned back home in Mountain View. But it’s also a time when he’s learning the deeper things of authentic community and servant leadership.
It all launched a frenzy of medical attention and decisions to determine McCasland’s condition. He was quickly transported to medical facilities in Little Rock before another quick decision to relocate for more intensive tests to MD Anderson facilities in Houston. He’s been there now about three weeks.
Doctors initially believed McCasland had leukemia. They later diagosed a relapse of a past history with tongue cancer that has metastasized into the bone marrow.
From the countless prayer lists to which he’s been assigned, to others who’ve offered to cover his transportation to and from Houston as needed, McCasland speaks as a man who sees his hometown through a different lens than before.
“I’ve been gone a long time since I graduated high school in ’78. What I think is that it’s amazing that the people in that community, regardless of whatever else that goes on, that they pull that much together for someone who hasn’t been part of the community for a long time. I’ve been gone a long time. It’s the same kind of caring community that it was when I left years ago, and honestly, it’s as if I never left at all,” he said.
One generous citizen offered McCasland private plane services to and from Houston as needed.
“Stone County is known for its beauty and all the recreational opportunities, and it sounds almost cliche to say it, but the best thing we have going on is our people. The people of the county are what have the highest value.”
“For a person to be gone that long, and for that many people to still truly care about you, it strikes me how genuine the community is. People say, ‘oh, Mountain View has the river and the fishing and the hunting.’ It’s true that we have all those things, but that’s not our real value. Our biggest value is the goodness of the people.”
Near the end of our discussion, I asked McCasland what he’d like to say to all those who’ve made a kind gesture his way, and to a community he calls home again.
Here’s what he said:
“A lot of people talk about being religious and Christian, but it’s the true actions, and the way you live your life every day and how you treat other people that matters,” he said. “And I think when you help people without being asked that’s the truest example of how you show yourself as real. It’s the things you do, and the things you follow through with no expectation of anything in return. That’s what I’m learning about Mountain View.”
Drop by our newspaper storefront during the Folk Festival this weekend and say hello. I’ll be offering newspaper subscriptions, my books, and giving away chances for a free, all-inclusive getaway to our Tranquility Base in Round Bottom Valley.
See you in next week’s newspaper.
Steve Watkins is a reporter/columnist for the Stone County Leader. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org)