Sunny Jim Fenton
James Amos Fenton (a.k.a. Sunny Jim)
James Amos Fenton was born in Virginia to Roger and Mary Kent Fenton. He’s the oldest of two children. His mother's family immigrated from England as a young teen; her English accent sometimes comes back when she’s upset, but otherwise she’s completely Americanized. His father’s family had a large plantation in Virginia, but it was destroyed in the Civil War as battle raged over their land. James and his mother lived in Richmond while his father, a cavalry major, fought in the war. After the war ended, Sunny Jim’s father sold the land and scraped together enough money to start a new life out in Wyoming territory, where they planned to start a cattle ranch. Roger didn’t want his wife and young daughter, Clara, to make the journey west until there was a house to move to, so he and his brother--Sunny Jim's uncle Ridge--went out to make a new start, bringing young Jim with them. For eight-year-old Jim, it was the biggest adventure ever. They took a train to the end of the line, where they bought horses and cattle and hired some hands to help drive them out to the land that was to be their ranch. Although a small, scrawny-looking boy, he learned the ropes quickly and proved to be a tough little scrap. He enjoyed herding the cattle and exploring the landscape. And more than anything else, he enjoyed helping his father build the little cabin that was to be their new family home. Once construction of the small log house was well underway and the cattle settled into the range, Uncle Ridge went back to meet the women at the rail stop in Kansas. And that’s when everything went wrong. Ridge had to travel all the way back to Richmond, where the bank had refused to release the money Mary and Clara needed for travel. Instead of a few weeks, he was gone for months. Several of the hired hands had been outlaws before working for the Fentons—and they had been secretly subverted by a clever, ambitious villain named Bunnell Teach, who had a plan to use the rugged land near the ranch for a hideout from which to launch raids on the Wyoming stage line. They shot Jim’s father in the back, burned the cabin, and got ready to set up camp in their new hideout. Jim, who had been out exploring the wilderness, saw the smoke and ran home as fast as he could. The outlaws told him that there had been a sudden Indian attack when his father was alone at the cabin, and that there was nothing they could do to protect him. But it wasn’t long before he overheard some careless conversation and found out the truth—the men he once trusted had murdered his father and had no plans to let him reunite with the rest of his family. Young, naïve, and idealistic, he confronted their foreman (Bunnell Teach was away in town making plans) with his crimes and challenged the man to a duel. This was mockingly refused. Someone suggested that they should kill the kid so he couldn’t talk, but none of them were depraved enough to murder a child in cold blood. They settled on taking away his shoes, figuring that he couldn’t go very far or very fast in rough country without them and would have to stay close by, where they could keep an eye on him. They were right about that, but they underestimated young Jim’s determination. They assumed he’d resign himself to his fate eventually, and although he was strangely silent from then on, never saying a single word to anyone, he seemed compliant enough. But they didn't know that under the silence, he was making meticulous plans for escape and revenge. It took a while, but he finally found the perfect opportunity to make his escape. One day, he found himself out gathering wood with a young outlaw who settled down to take a nap in the shade while Jim did all the work. Jim crept up quietly, sizing up the man—and his boots. Small feet. Jim was only a scrawny child, but his feet were quite large for his size. Those boots might almost fit. And Jim was also stronger than he looked. Very, very quietly, he picked up a large rock... Three days later he arrived at the Cherry Tree Station stage stop, hungry and tired, wearing an outlaw’s boots. He quickly made himself useful at the station by helping to take care of the horses and fetching and carrying for passengers when they arrived, so the station manager, a slovenly lout, let him stay and paid him in table scraps and the occasional coin for relieving him of duties that took time away from his drinking. Several weeks later, Jim’s mother and Uncle Ridge arrived; finding the burned-out cabin and Roger’s grave nearby, they had taken to the roads, hoping to find news of a lost child. Jim told his mother everything that had happened. She contacted the local authorities, and using the information Jim had given them, they formed a posse and rousted the outlaws out of their ill-gotten hideout. Bunnell Teach was wounded and several of the outlaws were killed, but he and several of his men managed to escape. The stage line’s manager was involved in the operation, and when he saw the sorry state of the station, he fired the keeper and gave the job to Mary and Ridge, who made it into the best-run stop on the line. Jim and his sister, Clara, grew to young adulthood at Cherry Tree Station. Jim helped Uncle Ridge take care of the horses and livestock and learned the building trade along the way, working with crews on nearby ranches and taking a job with a builder in Laramie for a year. One of his proudest accomplishments was building overnight accommodations at the stage stop. It was during the year in Laramie that he was nicknamed Sunny Jim. Always a quiet boy more likely to observe than talk, he became silent and withdrawn after his father's murder. Although he worked with a stoic optimism, it seemed that not even the funniest joke could make Jim smile, so his coworkers sarcastically began calling him Sunny Jim. He secretly took great delight in the contradictory moniker, and has gone by that name ever since. Sunny Jim hasn’t forgiven or forgotten what happened to his father. He has made a solemn vow to see everyone involved in his father's murder brought to justice, and harbors a burning hatred of those who would steal and destroy what other men have built. He came across one of Teach's old gang during his year in Laramie. The man didn't recognize the scruffy teenager, and Jim chose not to enlighten him. But being compulsively honest, he told the man that he knew what had been done at Fenton’s Ranch years ago, and that he intended to make sure that every single man who had taken part in Roger Fenton's murder would meet justice. He gave the man a choice: turn himself in and confess his crime, or leave town right now and hope he never crossed Jim’s path again. The poor fool crossed Sunny Jim’s path again on the road south of town, but he didn’t know it until the bullet tore into his chest. Uncle Ridge was one of the best marksmen in the Confederate army, and he had taught Jim well. A few years later, with the stage stop's business declining due to the new railroads, Uncle Ridge getting on in years, and Clara being engaged to a businessman in town, Sunny Jim helped his family settle into a new place in Laramie and set out to see what the rest of the world had to offer.
General Physical Condition
Wiry, and tough. Stronger than his scrawny build suggests.
Carries a Sharps rifle with custom ladder sights and an old Spiller & Burr revolver with a cartridge-conversion cylinder.
Ranch Hand at the Porter Ranch.
Has some symptoms of PTSD. Went through a period as a child when he wouldn't talk.
Virtually incapable of lying. May stay silent, but will not actively tell a lie.
After what happened to his father, he harbors a burning hatred for those who would steal and destroy what other men have built.
Never smiles, rarely laughs. His perpetually serious demeanor has earned him the sarcastic nickname "Sunny Jim," which he bears with pride.
Mother: Mary Kent Fenton (widowed) Sister: Clara Marjorie Fenton Uncle: Ridge Fenton
Extremely shy and quiet. Rarely speaks, never smiles. Tongue-tied around girls (the prettier they are, the worse it is).
Rubs his cheek whenever he's thinking or concentrating on something.