Reprinted with permission from the Waco, Texas Tribune-Herald. Sent to us try Jake Witzel, 117 Gail Dr., Waco, Texas 76708.
Nothing, it seems, withstands the march of time. One possible exception is Harrell Renfro's tractor.
Time caught up with Mr. Renfro last year when he died at age 83, but his tractor is still out in the field under the shade of a magnificent tree, apparently waiting for him to return.
With the way development transforms the land-uprooting trees, paving fields, displacing the homes of men, possums and raccoons-Mr. Renfro's tractor is an anomaly.
There it is, just behind Howey's restaurant at Highways 84 and 6, among American Plaza Tower, American Bank and the KWTX broadcasting studios
A friend of mine asked me about it one day. He said it seemed that tractor had been under that tree forever. Once all there was around it was pasture. Then, Richland Mall went up across Highway 6 and things changed rapidly.
While neighboring buildings went up, the tractor sat tight on its small strip of land, its front wheel sinking into the soil.
It's a 1929 or 1930 model F-12 Far-mall tractor, and it provided nearly a half-century of service. By 1930s standards it must have been quite a machine-two fuel tanks, one for gasoline, one for kerosene.
Renfro used to drive it from his property up near Highway 84 to this spot. He wasn't a farmer by trade-more of a handyman. He spent much of his career as an electrician for General Tire.
Renfro also had a pride-and-joy Model A Ford that got him much notoriety. He drove it until the mid-1960s. He was kind to machines.
Renfro was kind to man, too. Wood-way police officer Trent Spivey says he responded to a barking dog complaint at Renfro's residence one year and took a liking to the friendly old man. Later the two would hunt for arrowheads, explore old cemeteries and check out abandoned cotton gins.
Lost and Found Spivey spent so much time exploring with Renfro that the officer knew where to look in 1989 when Renfro was reported missing. His car had broken down and he'd stubbornly set out on foot, only to get lost. Spivey found him.
Then, on a hot July day two years later, Renfro again was reported missing. Spivey went looking for his friend at a familiar haunt and found him dead, probably of heat stroke.
All of this is to say that Harrell Renfro got out and about. 'He had all kinds of stories,' said Spivey, 'like having breakfast with Bonnie and Clyde.'
Renfro was a good breakfast partner, apparently. He became a popular customer at Howey's, which opened in 1989. In fact, Howey's displays a painting behind the cash register, of Renfro on his tractor.
The tractor apparently will be there for some time. Tom Howey, owner of the restaurant, offered to buy the property. He said he wanted to preserve the tractor and display it. But the land is intended to pass on to Renfro's grandson, now a high schooler in Fort Worth.
Time is a cunning bandit, taking away and never giving back. In a growing city, precious few things defy it. That's why people get pleasure every day seeing that Harrell Renfro's tractor is still there.