By Angelia Roberts, Special to the SRC

When Troy Gaston asked Carla Sue Barksdale to call the Make a Wish Foundation so he could see and touch a real horse, she made the call, but it wasn’t to the Foundation.

His aunt just happened to know a couple of local cowboys who could make that happen and recently, Tim and Jessie Smith, along with Seth Wortham arrived at Pioneer Nursing Home with a goose-neck trailer filled with horses.

Troy graduated from Melbourne High School and is the youngest child of James H. and Shirley Gaston.

While studying political science at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock he developed an interest in law. 

After scoring high on his LSATs, he was awarded full scholarships and would go on to be recognized as one of the top up and coming young lawyers in the state of Arkansas. He was also licensed in Oklahoma and Missouri.

With a family and a thriving law practice in Fort Smith,  life was good for the 29-year-old Izard County native, but changes were on the horizon when he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Sara Barton recalls they were told most patients with her brother’s diagnosis have a life expectancy of anywhere from two to four years.

When Troy was first diagnosed, Sara said they were at M.D. Anderson in Houston when Joel Osteen’s mother came up to Troy and asked what he specifically wanted her to pray for.

“I want to live to raise my children,” he told her.

“And, he’s done that,” Sara said. “He’s strong in his faith. He’s a prayer warrior for sure.”

And, while the cancer has been a part of his life for many years Troy continued to practice law until 2020. 

While he struggles with current memory issues, the past is not a problem.

Sara said his wish to see and touch a real horse could be attributed to his love of westerns even through they rode horses in their younger years, and “He was beyond excited about getting his wish granted.”

The horses arrived right on schedule.

“I want to shake a real cowboy’s hand. Can I shake your hand?” he asked.

While Tim and Jessie denied being real cowboys, Troy told them he knew a real cowboy when he saw one.

“Like Cheyenne Bodie. That’s my favorite show.”

“Well, I’ll shake your hand,” Tim told him, “but I’m not a real cowboy.”

With the horse unloaded, Troy held the reins and posed for pictures.

“I’m happy,” he said. “This is my Make a Wish.”

Sara is glad her brother is in Melbourne because he is treated so well and people stop by to see him regularly.

She said their dad has been very supportive and goes to see Troy everyday, sometimes twice.

One of the things she is grateful for is Troy’s ability to be content.

“I was seven years older than him and he’s been that way from the day he was born. He’s always had this optimistic outlook on life and has a really good heart.”

“She taught me how to read. I even remember the book. It was “Horton Hears a Who!” 

“Before they put me in the nursing home, I lived in Fort Smith. I have wonderful kids. They love their daddy. I love my daddy too,” he said.

“They do love him. They were small when he was diagnosed and they pretty much grew up with it. When it comes to family, Troy is the one who keeps in touch with everyone. He keeps up with all his nieces and nephews.”

Sara said she knew his birthday was approaching and asked him how old he was going to be.

“Well, I born in 1976,” he told her and rattled off the current year. “So, I’ll be 48.”

Last week Troy’s Make a Wish dream was to see and touch a horse. Nineteen years ago, it was to see his children raised. 

Wishes can and do come true.