Texas Tech University

The Generation Gap Behind the Waco Biker Shootout

TIME Magazine

May 22, 2015

TIME Magazine - The shootout between motorcycle clubs and cops in Waco, Tex. that left nine dead and led to more than 190 arrests may have been caused by competing claims of dominion over the state of Texas. But according to experts on outlaw biker clubs, the melee traces its roots to a larger generational shift in the makeup of the clubs themselves.

Not every expert is fully on board with that theory. Randy McBee, a history professor at Texas Tech and author of the forthcoming "Born to be Wild: The Rise of the American Motorcyclist," wonders whether anyone who might be dealing with the stress of combat would hang around anything as loud as a Harley engine. Yet the affinity of bikers to military service is on full display each Memorial Day weekend, when thousands assemble in Washington D.C. for the gathering called Rolling Thunder.

"The argument the Easy Riders were making in the '80s is, the brotherhood that surrounds service, that surrounds conflict, that there's no equal to that," McBee says. "And the closet thing you can get to it is riding."

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