The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997 Page: 412
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
seeks documentation and different perspectives for the events Hardin describes,
but this scholarly scrutiny has suffered from the author's conviction that
Hardin's book was "self-serving, incomplete, frequently inaccurate, often inten-
tionally so" (p. xiv). Working with this mind-set, Metz tends to suspect the worst
of his subject and to discount the reasons that Hardin gave for his actions, be
they valid or not.
There is no denying that John Wesly Hardin was an often-racist killer of men,
an individual who tried to solve life's problems (large and small) with a gun. The
question is whether we understand him as a bully who never outgrew his adoles-
cent tendencies for violence until he became a homicidal maniac driven by
liquor and paranoia, or whether he was a decent, well-meaning youth who came
to manhood in turbulent times and suffered because his sense of Southern hon-
or had been too finely tuned by his father and male kinsmen who detested mili-
tary occupation and the new order of things. Metz favors the former view,
assuring us that Hardin enjoyed the bumpy ride and exploited the celebrity at-
tached to his name as a feared man-killer.
Although the treatment of Hardin's doings is fairly routine and already known
from his autobiography, there are a few surprises in Metz's book. He suggests
that Hardin-despite his high-toned justifications-relished the role of a hired
killer (pp. 61-62) and that none other than Richard King tried to talk Hardin
into joining the Sutton (that is, law and order) faction in South Texas. In the
process Metz speculates that King was the source of a substantial payment of
money to Hardin as a hired gun against the Taylors (or possibly Mexican rustlers
and others who threatened his ranching empire) and claims that Hardin was
guilty of "an elaborate scheme to revise the history of how he became involved in
the Sutton-Taylor Feud" (pp. 104, o06).
Metz, although striving for insight into Hardin's soul (p. xii), will not please
the gunman's descendants and Taylor defenders with such spins on events in
South Texas. Even worse is his pronouncement that John Selman did Hardin "a
favor" by killing him (p. 286). The notion that a down-and-out individual--even
an aging gunfighter and ex-convict-should be grateful to his executioner runs
counter to most people's ideas on the human condition, not to mention turning
this country's legal tradition on its ear. Hardin may have back-shot a few obnox-
ious types in his lifetime but that hardly justifies Selman's foul and cowardly
murder of him in the Acme Saloon.
Metz makes no secret of his stance in the latest chapter of the Hardin saga:
the removal of Hardin's remains from Concordia Cemetery, El Paso, to South
Texas, where Hardin's wife and children are buried. Metz is firmly in the El Paso
camp and his last chapter describes the recent "Great Attempted Body Snatch-
ing Caper," in which he and other historically minded El Pasoans thwarted an
effort by residents of Gonzales County to take Wes's bones home-insofar as
anyone living on the dodge ever had a "home." This unsavory incident, along
with El Paso's growing interest in the benefits of tourism from staged reenact-
ments of Hardin's murder and Greyline visits to his graveside, bodes ill for
Hardin supporters and family members.
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997, periodical, 1997; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/m1/478/: accessed June 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.