If truth is stranger than fiction the shooting career of dead -eye Hardin surpasses even truth. At 18, the Texan prodigy could look back on 27 victims knocked off singly and, when the occasion required, in multiples -- and this, to say nothing of future carnage, was all in some form of self-defense, either warding off attack, resisting arrest or depleting the number of his pursuers. A minister's son, he was never known to kill for profit or out of meanness; he is described as essentially a peace-loving man who, but for the murders of his boyhood, would have settled down with his wife and family and become a distinguished member of the community. He did in fact enjoy interludes of cowpunching, horse trading, gambling; during a 15 year stretch (he was finally caught by two reward-seekers and sentenced for shooting a man about to plug him from behind) he industriously mastered the law. In the post Civil War years of police tyranny, Wes was a hero and never lacked for a friend to give him grub and a fresh mount; and his popularity, his devotion to his family, which was torn from him, his courage and skill won him more than local fame. From official records and Wes' own memoirs, this is true westernizing of the old days.