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
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
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
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