Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Today in motorcycle history, March 12, 1976




  On the evening of March 12, 1976, Daniel "Coyote" Wolf found himself in the parking lot of the Kingsway Motor Inn in south Edmonton, Alberta....

.....He was nursing a swollen, black-and-blue right hand, injured the previous evening during karate practice, and was wondering how it was going to hold up in the imminent battle.  He stood shoulder to shoulder with 22 members of the Rebels, the reigning outlaw motorcycle club of the Edmonton area, awaiting the onslaught of 40 members of the Canadian Airborne Regiment.  The Airborne, Canada's elite paratroop fighting force, was there to expand its social territory to the Kingsway Motor Inn, for many years the Rebels' club bar.  To lose the bar to the Airborne would be a blow to the prestige of the Rebels MC that could send a message of vulnerability to rival clubs.

  There was much at stake for Wolf in that parking lot: his physical well being, the territorial primacy of the Rebels, and, most important, his PhD dissertation.

  Today Daniel R. Wolf is psychological anthropologist who has worked at the University of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, among other gigs; he is the only anthropologist ever to choose an outlaw motorcycle club as the topic of his doctoral study. In fact, Coyote--the name given to him by his Rebel brothers because he wore a coyote pelt over his helmet--was the first outsider of any sort to infiltrate an outlaw bike club

  Wolf traded in the Norton for a 1955 Harley-Davidson panhead and then a '72 Electraglide--a Harley is de rigueur among outlaw bikers--and set off to join Caveman, Blues, Tiny, Wee Albert, Slim, Whimpy, Voodoo, Indian, Armand, Crash, Big Mike, Smooth Ed, Snake, Dale the Butcher, Saint, Terrible Tom, and the other members of the Edmonton Rebels. His resulting dissertation was the first of its kind. The biker subculture had been ethnographically unexplored, and Wolf eventually turned it into a popular book, The Rebels (University of Toronto Press), that reads like a cross between Hunter Thompson's Hell's Angels and Lionel Tiger's Men in Groups.

  Despite being outnumbered 40 to 23, the Rebels prevailed over the Airborne.  The paratroopers came with nunchaku (karate sticks), a steel bar attached to a chain, a blackjack, a baseball bat, and more.  A few Rebels had chains and tire irons, but most were unarmed.  One wielded an old motorcycle battery.  But the Rebels attacked together, "with the viciousness of cornered animals," in Wolf/Coyote's words.  The Airborne, soldiers trained in unarmed combat, weaponry, and riot control, dispersed when they saw a number of their fellows being beaten.  Said Wolf: "They had not yet endured and shared enough to cement those ties of comradeship that result in members presuming, and acting upon, a principle of self-sacrifice.  The Airborne may have been the finest in discipline, but they had not yet learned to look out for each other under fire"--thus proving brotherhood is powerful. 

  The Edmonton chapter of the Rebels MC folded in 1997.