In the winter of 1869, the seventeen-year-old Hardin drove into Tovash – one of the many towns where brothels, saloons and gambling houses worked around the clock. Hardin, as always, did not have to look for trouble for a long time. At the card table, he managed to outright beat Jim Bradley, the leader of a gang that had long established its laws in Tovash. Bradley refused to pay the “impudent jerk.” Moreover, he forced Wes to take off his shoes and kicked him barefoot into the street. It could not have crossed his mind that the “arrogant jerk” would soon return with a gun in his hands and kill him in cold blood.
Fleeing from friends Bradley, Hardin went to the Texas town of Koss. How he ended up in bed some local lady during the day is unknown, but her roommate saw their love joy through the window. Apparently, the lady was conspiring with a roommate, because when he, indignant, burst into the door with a noise, it turned out that the issue of seducing his lover could be settled by money. “The man said he would kill me,” Hardin recalled, “unless I pay him $ 100. I replied that I only have $ 50 or $ 60 in my pocket, but if he goes with me to the stable, I will give him more, because the rest of the money is hidden in my saddle. ” The robber was impatient. He wanted to immediately get what is, and only then to go to the rest of the booty. Hardin rummaged in his pockets, pulled out the money and, holding it out, allegedly accidentally dropped a few coins on the floor. A lascivious young man found himself with money and acted so obediently! The contented robber bent down to collect the fallen coins, and when he raised his head, he saw Hardin’s grin and the barrel of a revolver. A bullet entered him exactly between the eyes. Looking at the open body of a loser robber, a sexually unsatisfied, but quite contented with himself young Hardin hastened to retire from home.
In 1871, Hardin, tired of wandering, returned home. His father convinced him to continue his studies at the Academy of Professor Landrum, where his brother Joe was studying at that time. But he did not have time to stay at the academy even one day, when he received a letter from his excited father informing him that several policemen were going to arrest him. Oddly enough, Wes did not drop out. Joe regularly visited his shelter, and the brothers did their homework together by the fire. Professor Landrum agreed to take an exam with Wes, and Hardin became the holder of an Academy graduate diploma.
But the police did not stop looking for him, forcing him to run again. In a short time, Wes managed to kill four more servants of the law. Now on his account there were already 12 corpses. Moving only at night, he managed to get to Gonzalez, where his two cousins were located – Jim and Manning Clements. They undertook to drive a large herd to the town of Abilen, in the state of Kansas, and convinced Hardin to join them. There, in Gonzalez, Wes first met the daughter of a local rancher, Jane Bowen. Wes fell in love with a skinny black-haired girl at first sight. They got married, and Hardin promised to return as soon as possible.
Describing his adventures, Hardin boasted that in 1871 he nearly shot Wild Bill Hickcock himself in Abilene. Wes was just 18 years old that year, but he already had a reputation as a cold-blooded killer and was considered a dangerous gunfighter. On the way to Abilene, Wes did not waste time wasting time to shoot an Indian and four Mexican wakeiro. Hickcock certainly knew about the young Hardin when he appeared in the city. Other inhabitants knew about it.
Broad-shouldered, ninety-meter-tall, never parting with two revolvers, Wild Bill Hickcock became Marshal of Abilen just a month and a half before Hardin arrived there. By that time he was already known throughout the country, proving his courage and extraordinary skill as a shooter in battles with his own kind on the battlefields of the Civil War and in campaigns against hostile Indians. He had many friends who sincerely admired him, but also many enemies. Among the latter were the owners of the Bull Head saloon Ben Thompson and Phil Coe . According to Hardin, Thompson tried to persuade him to shoot Wild Bill, which he received a hard refusal. Hardin was hardly afraid of Hickcock. He was from the breed of those who are today called “scumbags,” but he never did the dirty work for others. If Thompson had a desire to get rid of the Marshal who was bothering him, it was Thompson’s problem.
Having met in the saloon, Hardin and Hickcock drank for an acquaintance and discussed the recent skirmish of a young cowboy with Mexican wakeiro. “We parted as friends,” Hardin wrote. After some time, Wes reappeared in the saloon. By law, in order to avoid firing in Abilene, all people entering it had to deposit their weapons.