So, though Moore ordinarily does not stray far from the store and the booking lists, he has decided to travel with his Red Heads No. 1 team for a few days. He has driven up from Caraway, and the Red Heads rendezvous with him on Interstate 55. Moore takes up the lead in his Pontiac Bonneville, rolling at the sedate pace of a funeral procession while Big Whitey purrs along behind, the seven redheads alight in the sunshine streaming through the windows, Jolene Ammons at the steering wheel as she almost always is.
Moore is expansive about his enterprise, full of a salesman's bombast. He is a big man with a paunch not quite as big as a basketball. His hat is perched jauntily on the back of his silvery yellow wavy hair and his features are strong and blunt and big; his green eyes are quite small and often gleam like small gems when he smiles, which he does often. Moore speaks in a hog farmer's drawl and punctuates what he says by adding "Raaaahght" or "Know what I mean?"
He is full of windy enthusiasm. "I tell the girls, 'Every day is Christmas when you're an All American Red Head.' I tell 'em, 'Happiness is being an All American Red Head.' Raaaahght. Do you have any idea how much good the Red Heads have done for America? Bringin' good clean family fun to every state in the union, except Hawaii, and helpin' in any number of good causes, charities for blind people and poor Indian children and the like. Know what I mean?"
A hawk circles above flats of plowed soybean fields, and a green water tower of West Memphis, Ark. slides past. Moore drawls on. "Lions Clubs are our biggest sponsors, though Kiwanis and Rotary all like us, too. When we come to town it's like the circus. But furnishin' the folks a hee-haw is not our only objective. We also play a very classy game of basketball. Raaaahght. We have originated many of the tricks on the basketball court, such as the Piggy-Back Routine, the Referee Act and the La Conga Out of Bounds Play. I make it a point never to mention the Harlem Globetrotters, but when they claim to have originated many of the tricks that the All American Red Heads actually began, then I feel I must speak out. Know what I mean? The Globetrotters bring their own opponents along. We don't know who we're gonna play from night to night. You play over 200 games a year against men, more'n seven months on the road, well, a girl's got to love basketball with a passion to do that. And the All American Red Heads do love it with a passion."
A sign along Interstate 55 says WELCOME TO MISSOURI and the mini-caravan crosses that border, headed toward the mighty confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Moore begins to explain his philosophy of business. His eyes gleam shrewdly, he smiles with relish as if he has discovered Rumpelstiltskin's secret, a way to weave gold thread out of straw. "We have an operation we can control. We keep it small. The meat of the traveling professionals is in the small towns. No overhead, no operating expenses." Moore speaks almost confidentially. "You get the gymnasium for nothing. No rent, no insurance, no light bills. No advertisin' costs, either. Say the Lions Club is sponsorin' the game. In these little towns the Lions Club is the elite. Raaaahght. The Lions Club can go to the local paper and say, 'Now I want these pictures of the All American Red Heads run on the sports page and I want a nice long story to go with 'em.' A Lion'll say that, and, yessir, it will be done. So the Red Heads have no advertisin' costs—the Lions take care of it. We have a suggested price for tickets—$2 adults, $1 kids. I always make sure they got adults at the doors. You get kids takin' tickets and they let all their friends in free."
He tilts his hat forward and says, "The biggest crowd the Red Heads ever played for was 11,500 in the Chicago Stadium. That was before I took over the team. We got $4,500 out of it, but I can't tell you how much it cost advertising, buying stories in the papers. You don't get publicity for nothin' in the big cities and you don't get the gym free either.
"If you wanted to book into the Memphis Mid-South Coliseum, it'd cost, say, $1,000 rent, $250 for insurance, pay for ticket attendants, pay for the union men who turn on the lights and turn off the lights, pay for the scoreboard keeper, pay for the referees. Know what I mean? Then there'd be $600 to $700 to buy ads in the Memphis papers and twice that much to buy ads on TV. Oh, no, once you start payin' people to run ads, you make a mistake. It costs $140,000 a year to run the All American Red Heads organization. People think if you don't have $1 million operating expenses, you're peanuts. I was offered $1 million for the Red Heads some time ago. I turned it down. It's a big farm for me, my general store, raaaahght."
Jolene Ammons honks Big Whitey's horn and Moore pulls over to a diner called the Sands Caf�. "Time for dinner," he says. The Red Heads primp and fuss, put on lipstick, brush their seven heads of red hair, check eye shadow, and enter the restaurant. The waitress tells them that the specialty today is homemade meat loaf with brown gravy and mashed potatoes, and since the Red Heads eat their big meal at noon, homemade meat loaf is it for most of them. Orwell Moore stands by their booths and beams down past his paunch. "Every day is Christmas with the All American Red Heads!" he booms. "These girls love their life because they all love basketball." The Red Heads nod and some smile. They all are eating with fierce speed. They are used to rapid and enormously efficient "pit stops."
On the real Christmas Day 1973, the All American Red Heads were in a motel in Joplin, Mo. They found a tiny Christmas tree and decorated it with shaving cream. They held a make-believe Miss America contest, which was won by Lynette Sjoquist, one of the twins, who was then awarded a pickle. They celebrated by drinking Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper.
By the end of January the Red Heads had traveled 35,000 miles since starting in October, been in 26 states, seen a normal person's lifetime quota of billboards, brown hills, used-car lots, junkyards, stray dogs, abandoned barns, gas stations and housing developments. They had visited a few (only a few) points of special tourist interest—the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, Okla., Plymouth Rock, the Astrodome. And they had eaten uncountable pounds of McDonald's hamburgers; they often drive miles off the main highway looking for The Big Arch, as they call it. Most of the time they have only a vague idea of where they are.