TIFTON -- Bennie Whitehead had a sinking feeling when he noticed a sheriffs car in his rear-view mirror.
A Crisp County deputy had followed the concrete truck to a construction site near Lake Blackshear in Cordele.
Bennie felt the sweat beads gather on his forehead, even though the air had been cool the final week in October. He didnt think he had been driving over the speed limit. He was pretty sure his wheels had come to a complete stop at the sign back there.
I just wanted to take a picture of your truck, said the deputy.
A pink concrete truck is guaranteed to attract attention. Folks will wave, holler and pile up the pixels on their cellphones as you pass by. Rubberneckers will tap their brakes and honk their horns.
Women love it, said Bennie. The men pick on me. They want me to show them my Man Card.
Jonathan Jones, co-owner of Double A Concrete and Jones Construction in Tifton, and operations manager Bill Mann came up with the idea. They had one of their eight concrete mixer trucks painted pink in observance of national Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
They hand-picked Bennie to be the designated driver and presented him with a matching pink hard hat. Soon, he was showing up to pour sidewalks, driveways and foundations in a Mack truck the color of Pepto-Bismol.
Never has a concrete mixer caused such a stir.
If a pink truck rolled through Macon, none of us would bat an eye. Pink is our official color, thanks to three decades of Cherry Blossom Festivals. We have routine sightings of pink city buses and pink taxi cabs. The Pinkest Party on Earth has practically become a year-round color scheme.
But in Tift County, where the high school football team is known as the Blue Devils, pink is not the color of choice for most vehicles, except for Mary Kay representatives.
In fact, when Bill went to a local auto parts store, he could count on one hand the number of color samples the same as attic insulation.
There were only two or three shades of pink, he said. There was page after page of blue.
The pink truck is personal to Bill. He lost his wife, Sheree, to breast cancer three years ago last week. They had been married for 26 years and the parents of six children.
He can look around his office and point out co-workers dealing with friends and relatives who have struggled with the disease.
In every family, there is a cancer battle going on of some shape, form or fashion, Bill said. The idea for the pink truck was to raise awareness and show support for people in the fight. And not just with breast cancer, but all cancer.
Company officials began discussing the pink truck last summer. The original plan was to tie giant pink bows on the trucks. But they later determined the bows would get weathered, tattered and dirty on the giant vehicles, which can hold up to 18 tons of concrete inside their revolving bowls.
The company did some bartering with Troy Paint & Body on Ga. 82 in Poulan to negotiate a fair price. Of course, the first reaction to the pink proposal by the guys at the body shop was: Do what?
It took almost two weeks to cover the truck with from bumper-to-bumper with a two-tone pink. The cab is a slightly darker tint than the bowl, which carries the familiar symbol of the breast cancer awareness ribbon.
The truck is like a large, rolling billboard. It goes out six or eight times a day to places like Sylvester, Fitzgerald and Willacoochee, Bill said. It has caused a lot of excitement. Everybody can make a difference in some way to encourage others.
The truck got media exposure last week when a reporter from WALB-TV in Albany rode over to check out the pink-hued mortar mixer. Last Friday, Bill received a call from a woman in Virginia who saw the story posted on Facebook. She said she was a single mother with three children who drove a school bus for a living and was dealing with breast cancer.
You dont know me, she told Bill. But I wanted to thank you for what youve done and tell you how much it means to me.
Bill said the company will keep the truck in the pink for at least a year, and is considering painting several others. A patriotic design with red, white and blue is being discussed to show support of U.S. troops.
Can you imagine a purple truck in support of Alzheimers research? Or a blue truck to raise awareness of prostate cancer? Double A Concrete may one day have the most colorful fleet this side of the rainbow.
The pink truck appeared in the Tift County High homecoming parade three weeks ago and will participate in the annual Christmas parade Dec. 7.
Bennie has learned to take it all in stride ... and pride.
Everywhere he goes, hes a celebrity, said Bill.
Real men drive pink.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.