It just doesn't feel like winter in Collinsville until the folks at Herr Funeral Home spray-paint their lawn.
Local residents have been known to call and ask what's wrong if the grass isn't faux forest green by Thanksgiving.
"We try to arrange (the spraying) around funerals because you don't want to get any paint on cars," said General Manager Ryan Zinke, 39, of Maryville.
Ryan is one of several Herr employees who have pulled lawn-painting duty over the years.
They wear old clothes and get out their commercial, gas-powered sprayer on wheels.
"We use the same paint that golf courses use to spray their greens," Ryan said. "It's not harmful to animals or anything else."
The paint costs hundreds of dollars for a double coat, which generally lasts all winter. But owner Bob Herr, 67, of Glen Carbon, wouldn't think of stopping the tradition, which started about 50 years ago.
"It's kind of silly, I guess, but it truly affects a lot of people," he said. "They come to us and say, 'It just makes me feel better seeing that green grass.'"
Bob's father, grandfather and great-grandfather were undertakers, dating back to about 1850.
Today, Bob owns three funeral homes, including one in Caseyville and one in Glen Carbon. The Collinsville location on Main Street is the only one with a painted lawn. Bob's brother, Philip Herr, came up with the idea in the 1960s.
"We had planted Bermuda grass, which is thick and heavy, and we cut it tall, so it was like walking on carpet," Bob said.
"But the problem with Bermuda grass is, in the winter it turns brown. It's drab and dull."
The Herrs initially painted the lawn with a hand-held dandelion sprayer, then graduated to a two-man garden sprayer.
Bob remembers pumping it too much one year and creating too much pressure.
"We blew out the tank, and the paint went all over everybody," he said. "It covered all of us with the green (paint). We looked like the Jolly Green Giant."
Herr employees seem to enjoy the annual lawn-painting ritual. They can leave their suits and ties at home and get a break from the daily routine.
Double-takes by passing drivers have caused several fender benders. But the lawn also helps visitors find the funeral home.
"People will call and ask, 'Where are you?'" said Funeral Director Lyle Hill, 62, of Collinsville. "And I'll say, '501 West Main.' And they'll say, 'Oh, you're the ones who paint the grass,' and I'll say, 'Yes, that's us.'"