Tractor’s new paint job honors mother’s battle

EFFINGHAM, Ill. (AP) - Jason Herrmann’s tractor needed a paint job this summer, but this time he decided it was time for a color change.

"I was very surprised when he told me," said mother Kitty Jo Herrmann. "I thought Case orange, but he said, `I want to paint it pink and white for my mommy."’

A breast cancer survivor, Kitty Jo Herrmann found out 15 years ago she had cancer, following a mammogram at age 37. It was a few years later, her sister discovered she also had breast cancer, and it would eventually develop in two of her aunts. Although her sister also is in remission, the disease claimed the lives of her aunts.

Kitty Jo Herrmann had no known family history of the cancer when her doctor told her to get her first mammogram at age 35, younger than the age recommended by the National Cancer Institute of 40.

"He was telling everyone in that age group to get one," she said.

Since then, she has been getting the word out about the importance of the screening. Now, her son is hoping to drive that message home on the tractor pull circuit to anyone who sees it.

"Someone might see it and think `Hey, I should get a mammogram,"’ she said. "I’m a full believer in them. You always think it’s someone else and not yourself."

Jason Herrmann has been participating in tractor pulls since he was nearly 7 years old. Now, the 25-year-old has no problem getting on a pink and white tractor donning pink ribbons signifying breast cancer awareness. The tractor’s new look became a family project, with Jason Herrmann’s sister, Julie, adding her own touch. "It needed more than paint," she said. "So, people know the reason for the colors."

That’s when she came up with the idea of magnets with creative sayings to encourage women to get their breasts examined. It didn’t take her long to come up with sayings like "Mammogram is a must, screen your bust" or "Don’t let cancer be a looter, defend your hooters."

While the sayings that dot the tractor may be a little shocking to some, Julie Herrmann first checked with her mother, who was fully supportive.

"They don’t offend me," said Kitty Jo Herrmann.

And word has spread, with the tractor prompting a lot of comments from those who see it.

"A lot of people think it’s a nice gesture," said Jason Herrmann.

The tractor has even drawn the attention of passers-by. "We were on our way to a pull in Greenville, and a bunch of motorcycles with women on back passed us," said Kitty Jo Herrmann. "The women all gave us a thumbs up."