This is the best women's basketball team in North America. That can be said unequivocally, and you do not even know their names—the player-coach, Jolene Ammons; the superstar, Karen Logan; the sparkplug, Donna (Spanky) Losier; the captain, Cheryl Clark; the twins, Lynette and Lynnea Sjoquist; the rookie, Paula Haverstick.
If they were men, they would be famous. They would be rich. They would be on a first-name basis with Cosell, Schenkel, Whitaker and Gifford, perhaps even Cavett and Carson. They would have played before hundreds of thousands in the Garden, the Spectrum, the Forum, the Astrodome—tens of millions on television.
On this dark night January rain is falling in the town of Barlow, Ky. Yet the lights are blazing at the high school gymnasium and cars gleam in the rain in the parking lot. Tonight the best women's basketball team on the continent is performing in Barlow and the proceeds from the gate will be split with the Ballard Memorial High School student council, which is planning to use the money to buy, among other things, a new water cooler. All the women on the team have blazing red hair, ranging in hue from near-tangerine to deep cinnamon. They are called the All American Red Heads. They are wearing red, white and blue uniforms, stars, stripes, etc. Tonight, as they do 200-plus nights each year, the All American Red Heads are going to play a man's team, the High School alumni. As always, the men are an assortment of sizes, shapes and basketball skills, a fair cross section of American manhood. Some are still willowy and lithe. Others have soft paunches and fat arms; they will soon be gasping like beached fish, their jowls slick and sweaty. They are dressed in motley clothes, a variety of sneakers. One is wearing black anklets. They are not basketball players anymore; they are barbers, bartenders, teachers, truck drivers, and they play the game from memory. They would be home watching Maude on television if they were not here playing basketball.
May 5, 1974
On this night, as before all of their games, the All American Red Heads spend a little time wandering through the crowd in their uniforms, selling programs for a dollar apiece. At the same time, the student council is selling homemade brownies and cookies and coffee. The money made this way is not split between Red Heads and the student council; each group keeps what it makes. The Red Heads program is red, white, blue and silvery. Large block letters shout 35TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION! This is not quite accurate, for the All American Red Heads were founded in 1936, but it does not really matter. There is a drawing of a lovely smiling Red Head wearing a tiara, sneakers and knee guards, perched saucily on a globe of the world, spinning a basketball on one finger. There is a series of star-marked blurbs on the program that describe the Red Heads: THRILLING BASKETBALL...RATED FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT...CLEVER...BRILLIANT...POWERFUL ACTION...and so on.
The gymnasium is not full. There are about 1,400 people and the student council will not get as much money as it hoped for; neither will the All American Red Heads. Possibly the winter rain is the cause of the mediocre turnout. No, says the student council adviser in his soft Kentucky drawl, that is not the case. "We had the Red Heads here five years ago and they sure filled up this gym. We cleared $1,100, a record. I think the reason they aren't drawing so well is that five years ago we had a preliminary basketball game with women—housewives, mothers—from P.T.A.'s all over the county. They really drew 'em because people turn out to see their kinfolk perform, now don't they? The Red Heads themselves couldn't have got that big a crowd in Barlow."
The game begins after flowery introductions of the Red Heads: "...and here she is, the Magic Passer! Miss Basketball! The World's Greatest Ball Handler! A 20,000-point champion! Miss Everything...Player-Coach Jolene Ammons!" The Ballard High School alumni score quickly; the men are taller and can jump higher than any of the women. But the Red Heads are slick ball handlers and their passes snap with precision. Many are thrown behind the back, perfectly. The women are wearing bright red lipstick and blue eyeshadow, as if they were going to the theater. But here they are, perspiring like mad and playing basketball like demons. They drive swiftly down the court. They shoot with deadly accuracy. They shout at each other, shrilly, crying out play patterns. Sometimes they shriek jokes at the men. Their precision dazzles the crowd and, even though they are playing against butchers and insurance men and car salesmen, the All American Red Heads are plainly a splendid basketball machine. Sometimes they stop the action to clown, doing ball-spinning tricks, crawling between their opponents' legs, taking shots piggyback, offering such guffaw gags as "The Pinch"—a routine in which the Red Head comic, Spanky Losier, pretends that a man has pinched her behind and insists that a personal foul, "a very personal foul," be called. The crowd loves it. Small boys fairly roll on the floor at such funny stuff.
At the end, the All American Red Heads have won 79-69, and at this point in late January their season's record is 104 victories, 17 losses. The money is counted and the gate is split—$800 to the student council, $1,200 to the Red Heads—and the Red Heads, dressed in bright warmup suits, file out of the gymnasium into the rain.
Outside, a strange white limousine awaits them, a Toronado 28 feet long, emblazoned with huge red letters saying ALL AMERICAN RED HEADS across the four doors on each side. The women climb inside. Rain drums on the roof and the grand white vehicle rolls hissing over the wet parking lot and out onto Route 60. The seven heads of red hair can be seen, but barely, through the streaming windows. The All American Red Heads are sealed inside the car they call "Big Whitey," insulated from the outside world as if in some kind of rolling space capsule. Here is where they spend far more of their lives than they do on a basketball court. Tonight they will stay in Paducah, 25 miles away. In the morning darkness they will rise and drive 400 miles, nine hours, across much of Kentucky and most of Tennessee to still another town where they will play another high school alumni team that night.
A man from Arkansas named Orwell Moore owns the All American Red Heads. He is essentially a man of small-town hopes and minimal dreams. He likes to call the Red Heads' home office in Caraway, Ark. "The General Store" and, at times, Orwell Moore does look as if he should be wearing a bib apron behind a cracker barrel, ready to slice a slab of rat cheese off the wheel on the meat counter. Ordinarily, Orwell Moore stays home in Caraway to mind the office. This season he has two troupes of Red Heads on the road, the team touring the border states in January being by far the better. It is not a simple job, laying out an itinerary and calendar for the Red Heads: each unit travels some 60,000 miles a season and plays in more than 200 hamlets, villages and various wide spots along the road. Moore's wife, his brother Jack and a secretary are usually engrossed in booking phone calls, sending out endless mailings of Red Head publicity and posters, as well as trying somehow to link a game for the Lions Club in Waseca, Minn. on Dec. 12 with one for the Kiwanis in Joliet, Ill. on Dec. 14 and one in Sioux Falls, S. Dak. on Dec. 13. It is a Chinese puzzle at times, and Moore does not always solve it so neatly. When the Red Heads played in Barlow and then stayed in Paducah, they drove 400 miles to Morristown, Tenn., then turned around and drove 390 miles back to Murray, Ky., which is a mere 40 miles from—yes—Paducah.
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 Café. "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.
The All American Red Heads began their odyssey on Oct. 4, in Mantachie, Miss. They have no idea, just now, where or when the journey will end. They don't know where because Orwell Moore, in his careful way, never allows the Red Heads to know their itinerary more than a month in advance. He says, "We have to give them their routes so their folks can write to 'em, but we never tell 'em beyond each month and they are generally sworn to secrecy about the schedule. If they told some reporter where they're playin', he might print the whole schedule in his paper and then some other attraction—donkey basketball, Gospel singers, some other basketball team—could see it and set up a date in the same town a week or two ahead of the Red Heads. That would kill us dead. There's only so much entertainment money around, know what I mean?"
The Red Heads don't know when their season will end because Moore doesn't know when the accumulation of gate receipts will be enough to show a profit. He says, "It's clearly understood that the girls are to play as long as I want them to play. We got to make ends meet at the store. Now the energy crisis cost five, six games canceled in Virginia in December. We got to make them up somewhere, so we'll be playin' into May this year. We've never got into June yet, but that's not sayin' it won't happen."
And so Big Whitey purrs along. At the wheel, firm and responsible, her normally dark hair now the color of burnt ginger, is Jolene Ammons, 32, born in Homerville, Ga., an All American Red Head for 11 years. Jolene is now player-coach, den mother, money collector, road accountant and chief chauffeur. On the court she is the playmaker. She is a lithe, handsome woman, though there is weariness in her face. There is nothing she does not do for her little coterie. She drives constantly and says she often sees ribbons of highway center lines streaming endlessly through her mind late at night. Over the years, both knees have been wrenched and twisted time and again, and many nights they throb with so much pain that she cannot sleep. Her coaching is sharp; a tough word here, a pointed question there gets rid of mistakes on the spot. Last year her Red Head team had a 188-13 record. Jolene's passes are hard and flat and she is deceptively fast; she has scored more than 21,000 points. She can spin basketballs on both hands at once, and does clowning exhibitions during halftime. Jolene Ammons would probably be a star on any woman's national team in the world, despite her age. The Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. has asked to display her jersey along with the uniforms of such male stars as Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West. So far, Moore has not sent along Jolene's jersey; he has never been one to emphasize any individual stars on his teams, feeling he might inflame jealousies.
One of Ammons' nightly duties is to telephone reports to Caraway of money earned and individual points scored; if one woman is consistently rolling up too many baskets, Moore tells Jolene to make the offender cool off in order to keep peace. She is a gentle woman and her face often softens in laughter. She is pretty when she smiles. "I started playing basketball in the fourth grade," she says, "and the girl next door took dancing lessons. Every afternoon she'd walk off her front porch with her tutu and I'd walk off mine with my basketball. She got to be Miss Georgia and I got to be a Red Head." Jolene admits, however, that she was her high school homecoming queen, replacing Miss Georgia the year after she graduated.
There is an Orwell Moore rule among the Red Heads that they must switch roommates each night and take different seats in Big Whitey each day to avoid cliques. So on this day Spanky Losier, 24, a former brunette of Gorham, N.H., whose hair is now dark red, is sitting in the seat behind Jolene. Spanky is fairly short (5'5"), almost tubby, a born comedienne and entertainer who burbles jokes while the Red Heads drive or helps pass the miles by singing in a sweet, clear voice accompanied by her guitar. She is given to spurts of laughter and frequent exuberant I-love-life eruptions about her role as a Red Head. "Hey, it's wonderful...I put my sneakers on and I'm raring to go. I love the game. Where else can you eat and breathe basketball 24 hours a day? I'm never bored. I'd never touch a drug, I'm too high on basketball...." At first it sounds phony, like Moore's evangelistic salesmanship. But it is true: Donna Losier is in a constant state of delight. She knows the words to 200 songs, can do imitations of everyone from Jonathan Winters to Richard Nixon, often snaps up out of a sound sleep giggling and tossing out lines like, "Hey, they say fish is brain food. Let's have a whale for lunch." She does the major comic routines at games, including the Big Pinch, and carries what she calls her "Crazy Kit," which contains, among other things, a top hat, a sequin covered whistle and a giant powderpuff, for her acts. As a serious basketball player, she is a polished ball handler and dribbler, a fine outside shot, an accurate and notably unselfish passer. This is Losier's seventh year as a Red Head, and every slab of homemade meat loaf still tastes like Christmas dinner to her.
In the next seat is the Red Head captain, Cheryl Clark, 24, formerly brown-haired, from Wetmore, Mich., six feet tall and exceedingly graceful. Her shoulder-length hair is chestnut now, and she wears tinted spectacles and looks almost scholarly. She is soft-spoken, the daughter of a schoolteacher, a writer of many letters during the long periods in the limousine. She says quietly, "I love basketball because I like the feel of running, the constant motion, the instantaneous decisions. Your mind stays active and that is stimulating." Cheryl glides so smoothly when she plays that her game seems almost gentle. She has perfected a driving shot from beyond the free-throw line that opponents never block, and which she seldom misses. This is her fifth season with the Red Heads; last year she performed with the other unit and it won 96 games in a row and finished the year with a 199-6 record.
The Sjoquist twins are sitting together today, large laughing girls with light strawberry hair. They seem almost coltish although each is 6'1" and weighs close to 190 pounds. Lynette and Lynnea, 20, are from a 400-acre farm near Cannon Falls, Minn. They alternate in the pivot for the Red Heads, and sometimes alternate sentences when they talk. "We are from the farm, all right," says Lynette. "We'd eat our big meal—dinner—at noon and then Dad would have a nap," says Lynnea. "...and we'd go out with our three brothers and play basketball on a concrete court behind the barn," finishes Lynette. Both starred at a small Lutheran junior college and found it difficult adjusting to the Red Heads. "The hardest thing was getting used to the fact we're not the best anymore...." "Or even second best...." "But you have to go all out because people are paying to see us play...." "And you have to have a professional attitude." Both girls are strong under the basket. But this is their first season with the team and they tend to drop some of the veterans' swift, precise passes.
Another rookie is sleeping in the back of the limousine. She is Paula Haverstick, just 18, from the village of Sturgeon, Mo. She spends her days dozing, perhaps because she is by far the youngest on the team and shy to the point of pain. She almost never speaks, but when she puts on her Red Head uniform she suddenly comes alive. She usually substitutes for Jolene, and though Paula shoots well the team seems rudderless when Jolene is out of the game.
The finest athlete among the Red Heads is Karen Logan, 24, of Fortuna, Calif., a rangy woman with orange hair, who is perhaps not very far below the unmatchable Babe Didrikson in natural abilities. She probably would have made the 1968 Olympic team as a 400-meter runner except for a pulled tendon. In 1967 she won a California junior tennis championship, defeating Sharon Walsh who went on to be the U.S. junior champion in 1969. Logan drifted away from tennis because of a lack of confidence, but at Pepperdine University the men's basketball coach saw her play, encouraged her to perfect her game and urged her to get in touch with Orwell Moore. Karen has been riding the roads with the Red Heads since 1970, and is easily the best of them, averaging 23 points a game and playing always with a fierce intensity. Yet she is bitterly frustrated. For one thing, she would like to regain amateur status so she could try out for the 1976 U.S. Women's Olympic basketball team (this will be the first time the women's game has Olympic status). At the moment, that seems impossible. Beyond that, Karen is deeply troubled that there is really no way for the Red Heads to display their skill to the world, no way to prove that they are one of the best women's basketball teams on earth. "I'd give anything to play the Chinese team or the Russians," she says. "I'd love to have a chance at the AAU champions or any women's team anywhere. We could beat anyone in the world. I'm sure of it. But we'll never know. No one will ever know because we never play anyone but has-been men."
Seeing Karen play, even against once-upon-a-time high school stars, is like seeing a work of art. Her moves remind one of Pete Maravich. Her concentration during a game is almost fanatic; she plays with her shirttail flapping, her hair soaking wet, refusing to take a man's helping hand when she has been thumped to the floor, then, quick as a cobra, flicking the ball away from him at the next opportunity. Karen, too, was asked for a game uniform by the Basketball Hall of Fame. When she heard that only two other women (not counting Jolene Ammons) had ever been so honored. Karen instantly demanded to know where they live. She wanted to challenge them to games of one-on-one.
Such is the population of Big Whitey. What would one assume about a team of touring professional women basketball players? That they are tough, road-hardened pros? Actually, there is an aura of innocence inside Big Whitey. Traveling with the Red Heads, one does not hear so much as the word "damn" pass their lips. Nor does booze, or beer or any other artificial stimulant. Nor did any Red Head get kissed on this trip.
The first team of Red Heads appeared in 1936, a bunch of henna-haired girls who horsed around the Ozark Mountain countryside near Cassville, Mo., performing for the expressed purpose of drumming up business for a chain of beauty shops. The owner of the shops was Mrs. Doyle Olson, and her husband was the moderately famed C. M. (Ole) Olson who had for 22 years barnstormed the backwaters and barnyards of the land with a basketball team known as Olson's Terrible Swedes. They had stunned hicks the country over with such incredible tricks as the behind-the-back pass and the one-hand set shot. Olson had retired once from the itinerant basketball business before the original Red Heads appeared, but he found that there was enough interest in them to turn a good dollar. So he put them on the road, too. And except for a couple of years during World War II, a team of All American Red Heads has been on the highways of America. In 1948 Ole Olson hired Orwell Moore, then the coach and athletic director of Caraway (Ark.) High School, to be the Red Heads' coach. With Moore came his wife Lorene, or "Butch," a tiny wide-eyed birdlike woman who also just happened to be a talented basketball player. Little Butch Moore played for 12 years with the Red Heads and scored more than 35,000 points, and Orwell remained as coach until 1956 when Ole Olson sold him the franchise.
The early days of the Red Heads were bizarre at times. Moore recalls, "Even after 19 and 48, when I came aboard, we played in mighty shabby facilities, in church basements and on dance floors. We played once in an old factory in New Britain, Conn., where there was such a bend in the floor I couldn't see my team at the other end. We played on a skating rink once in New Castle, Pa. One place I remember the light was so dim they had to have small boys lying around the rafters holding little Aladdin's lanterns. Raaaahght. One night the lights went out due to an ice storm, and we played by car lights shining through the doors and windows so we wouldn't have to give the crowd their money back. We've played deaf and dumb boys, we've played the Boston Patriots, the Kansas City Chiefs. We've played on Indian reservations."
Moore pauses in his recollections, then lowers his voice. "The Red Heads were not always the lovely wholesome crowd of girls you see here today. Some of them carried on considerably in the old days. Lots of drinkin'. My first year I was out on the West Coast with the 'Young Unit' and in March things weren't goin' too well and, sure enough, Mr. Olson caught the other unit in a big beer party, know what I mean? He sent 'em all home. Olson wouldn't stand for that sort of thing.
"We're no part of Women's Lib and if any of the girls were to get involved in it—well, they better not let me know about it. I don't want the All American Red Heads tied to any causes. This is a wonderful livelihood for a girl, but I insist on high standards, my standards. Now, I don't tell them they can't smoke, but not many do. They are forbidden ever to smoke in the uniform of an All American Red Head. The children of America look up to and emulate the Red Heads. As for drinkin', well, I take a beer myself from time to time, but the Red Heads are not to drink. Now, you know, these men professional basketball players can walk, in a bar and drink all they want. But let one redheaded woman basketball player sit down on a barstool and order up a beer and you upset the mores of a community, know what I mean?
"I think the successful people of this world have a high regard for the being of the Lord. Raaaahght. I am a Methodist and I believe we have got to have someplace to look for help and guidance. But I do not force that on the Red Heads. We have had girls of all persuasions—a Mormon, Indian girls, one Jewish and I believe there was even one Red Head who did not go along with the existence of the Lord, know what I mean?
"We prefer getting our girls young, fresh out of school. They are easier to coach, easier to fit the Red Head way when they are young. We got a scouting network all over the nation. Old Red Heads, high school coaches. The young girls themselves write to us and ask to play after they see the Red Heads. Paula did that. The twins, too. This is a wonderful life for a girl. Like a big happy family. These girls love basketball so much they don't care what they get paid. The salaries aren't very high. We only pay $40,000 a year to all the Red Heads. But it's not bad. The rookies can save as much money as a schoolteacher, $250 a month. They don't spend anything except on some clothes. Now Jolene, golly, she might save $1,000 a month. And they get five months off, most of 'em. Oh, it's a happy life bein' an All American Red Head. They got workman's compensation if they get hurt or sick.
"Yes, they got it pretty good with the Red Heads. But girls are girls. I sometimes call this the All American Matrimonial Bureau. They get married a lot. And being a Red Head gives a girl a brand of appeal she never had before. She goes home, know what I mean, after a year of bein' a pro basketball player and she's gonna have guys calling her she never knew about before. My girls marry the No. 1 eligible bachelor in their communities, bankers' sons, the rich ones with lots of dough, family dough. Due to their professional basketball career, they get the best jobs when they go home, the good job in the bank, for example. Even our stars stay only four, five years, as a rule. We have to get six new ones every year."
Moore pulled his Pontiac into a restaurant and gas station surrounded by massive trucks. Big Whitey followed him and the truckers stared and joked at the bizarre sight of seven doors snapping open and seven red-haired women emerging to stride across the lot into the restaurant. They sat down to a quick meal of hamburgers and coffee. "Every day is Christmas for the All American Red Heads," boomed Moore once again. After the meal he bade everyone farewell and left to return to the general store in Caraway. The Red Heads piled back into their car and began to cross Tennessee.
It was dark when the Red Heads arrived in Morristown, Tenn. and they were a little panicky, for they thought they were late for the game. At last they found a squad car and asked where the high school was. The cop pulled out in front of Big Whitey and gave the team an escort to the door of the school where they learned, to their immense relief, that they had rolled unknowingly through a time zone on the way and had plenty of time before the game. They had to wait to change into their uniforms because the men's team was using the locker room. It was not a room calculated to raise spirits or refresh the soul. The walls were dreary green and unwashed white. Exposed pipes cluttered the ceiling and the place was garishly lit by bare bulbs. There were some dented lockers, a wire cage full of equipment, two folding chairs, and two short benches bolted to the floor. Four ancient and rust-stained sinks lined one wall, each with a tiny mirror above it. The Red Heads crowded around to paint on their glossy game makeup. There were two stall showers, two toilets of the caliber of those found in a seedy bus depot. The floor was littered with tissues and paper cups. The Red Heads were subdued, even melancholy, as they dressed in the dismal setting, although Jolene remarked that this was a perfectly normal, average dressing room by the standards of the small-town schools they visited.
Karen Logan was dressed first and began to limber up. Soon the others joined her. Suddenly the dank place was filled with balls bouncing off the ceiling pipes, the walls, the floor, and suddenly the place seemed lighter, cleaner, prettier as the Red Heads, their bright hair shining, their red, white and blue uniforms aglow, began practicing their tricks. Now they were smiling, now one or two of them laughed. Suddenly the long drive and the dull hours in Big Whitey fell away like a dirty veil. They were playing basketball. They were happy and they took momentum from the shabby room and went into the gymnasium to play again the game they loved.
Even now as you read this, the All American Red Heads are somewhere out there. They are riding in Big Whitey, or splitting the gate receipts with student councils or faking out barbers in black anklets or sending little boys and girls into peals of laughter. They are somewhere in some small town fooling around like clowns and playing like demons. They are the best women's basketball team in North America, make no mistake.