Shade Thornton is tall and of medium build, well muscled with a wiry frame. Shade's hair is thick and wavy with a tendency to curl when damp. It is raven's wing black with strands of silver here and there. He wears it short, slightly longer on top, and usually has neatly trimmed sideburns. Shade's eyes are deep set and a dark shade of cobalt blue. His eyelashes are black, long and thick. His eyebrows are black, naturally well-shaped, and tilt upward slightly on the inside.
He is very hygiene conscious and will clean up or bathe whenever there's an opportunity. Shade does not mind getting dirty and sweaty from a hard day's work, but at the end of it, he likes a hot bath. If possible, he also washes up and shaves before heading out for the day. He normally dresses in durable work clothes: denim pants, bib-front or button-down workshirt, leather vest, gloves, and low-heeled boots.
It is very rare that Shade will be seen without his gunbelt and gun.
Marks and Scars
Star shaped scar on left shoulder from gunshot wound (Civil War, May 12, 1865): Shot at the Battle of Palmitto Ranch, Texas.
Round scar, outside upper right leg, gunshot wound (Shotgun, Overland Stage, 1873): Shot during attempted hold-up.
Shade has a few other faint scars from various injuries received over the years as well as some from close calls from being on the wrong end of a gun, including a long crease in the hairline of his left temple.
Traits & Characteristics
Quick tempered (-)
Fiercely independent (+/-)
Roguishly charming (+)
Shade has a reputation for being hot-headed and quick-tempered although not irrational. The perception of injustice is guaranteed to arouse his ire, often causing him to step into situations without thinking it through. Shade is quick to leap to the defense of others, particularly those in less fortunate circumstances or that seem unable to defend themselves. He has been guilty of drawing his gun in anger when younger although he always managed to stop himself from killing. His temper and a tendency to settle disputes with his fists or his gun have enhanced the legend or perception of him as a gunfighter.
There is an aura of danger about Shade, yet his presence often instills confidence and a feeling of being protected and safe. He is courageous to a fault, another aspect of his nature that is often seen as impetuous as he will take on odds that would intimidate many other men. Shade has a strong protective streak also. More than once, he has delivered a beating to men who abused their wives and children. Once his friendship and trust are given, Shade is loyal to a fault. Once his trust is betrayed, he is an implacable enemy.
Shade is fiercely independent and proud, refusing to accept handouts or anything he views as charity. He will not take anything he has not earned. He views his accomplishments with pride but is not vain about them.
Shade has a deep, gravelly voice, with a decided cowboy drawl. Despite the slight raspiness of his voice and a tendency to speak in a low tone, his speech is clear, distinct and easily understood. Shade is not prone to shouting or raising his voice in anger although he will speak forcefully and even in a commanding tone of voice if the situation calls for it.
His usual demeanor is somewhat gruff and reticent which covers the fact that he is actually quite tender-hearted and compassionate. Shade is quick to laugh, joke and tease with those close to him. He takes teasing in stride, actually enjoying companionable ribbing from friends. His humor often has a sharp edge to it.
June 1875 to Present
Employer Name: Lost Lake Ranch (LLR)
Position: Owner / Foreman
Details: Shade is half-owner of Lost Lake Ranch. He is currently working as its foreman while he learns the business end of managing the spread. Ezra Hale and his wife, Kathryn, are continuing in the role of ranch managers. Shade is also the trustee and administrator for the ranch as a whole which includes the half that is jointly owned by his niece and nephew.
1870 to 1875
Sherman Ranch and Relay Station
Position: Co-Manager, Ranch Hand
Shade started out working as a ranch hand and assisting with the relay station chores when he was not actively engaged riding the stagecoach as a guard. By 1873, John Sherman had made him a co-manager of both the ranch and relay station.
1870 to 1875
Grand Central Stagecoach Company
Position: Guard, Security Supervisor
Although an actual title did not come with the job, Shade was promoted to overseeing the guards working in the southeastern Wyoming region. He still worked riding shotgun on high priority runs.
Security, Stage Guard
Relay Station Mgr.
Shade has no formal training in hand-to-hand combat, but he has garnered lots of experience. He has developed a hard hitting style that engages his entire body when he swings allowing him to put power and momentum behind each blow. He often uses both hands.
Shade was born with above average hand-eye coordination. This ability allowed him to become extremely fast and accurate with guns. His natural skill with firearms has been honed by training and, unfortunately, experience. Although he has garnered a reputation as a gunslinger, Shade has never been paid as a gunfighter, nor would he knowingly accept employment in such a capacity.
Colt Peacemaker (daily use)
Customizations: Barrel cut back to the ejector, Gutta-Percha grips.
Colt Peacemaker (gunfighter)
Caliber: .45 Long Colt
Customizations: Front sight filed down, ivory grips, inside reworked to make it fast shooting.
Note: In 1870, after settling down in Laramie with the Shermans, Shade put away this gun. To him, it was very symbolic of leaving his former life behind.
Horses are not just part of Shade's livelihood. He is an expert horseman with a natural skill. He loves everything about horses, their nature, how they move, relating to them, even the cowboy's dependence on his horse is important to Shade.
Shade is a self-taught amateur geologist. He developed an interest in this science after learning that his grandfather, Ishmael, was a geologist. He also enjoys caving for the same reason.
Shade learned how to swim a little from his Blackfeet cousins. Regina Cantrell taught him a little bit more, but it is not something he is comfortable with. He can keep his head above water, but would likely have difficulty in bad weather or really rough water.
All of the Thorntons are taught the basics of music while in school. Shade can play the piano reasonably well and is learning the guitar. He does not sing except in church and Christmas carols in season.
Aliases / Nicknames
Shade: Middle name and nickname. After leaving Montana, he dropped his first name entirely. Shade Thornton became known as the fast gun / gunfighter.
Other Aliases: Jesse Shade, Jesse Thornton, Shade, Johnny Shade, Johnny Thorne
Eyes Like Sky (Blackfeet name): This name was given to him by one of the elders of his grandmother's clan-family.
Lost Lake Ranch (aka LLR, Double L)
Kalispell, Territory of Montana
Shade was born at the family home on their ranch in Montana where he lived until he was sixteen years old. At the age of sixteen, he moved out of the house and into the bunkhouse with the other ranch hands.
In 1875, Shade inherited Blackbird Lodge and half the ranch after the death of his older brother Chance, his sister-in-law, Regina, and their two older children. Shade returned to live at the ranch and look after his his niece and nephew, Cody and Antoinette (Nettie).
1870 to 1875
Sherman Ranch and Relay Station
Between 1860 and 1870
Kith & Kin
Shade does not have any children of his own. He shares guardianship of his orphaned niece and nephew with their maternal uncle, Quentin Cantrell.
William Cody Thornton: Nephew, Ward
Birth Parents: Chance and Regina Thornton
DOB: February 11, 1870 (a. 5)
Regina Antoinette Thornton: Niece, Ward
Birth Parents: Chance and Regina Thornton
DOB: February 11, 1870 (a. 5)
John Caleb Thornton (father, deceased)
DOD: 03/02/1868 (a. 62)
Wife: Isadora Kiara de Monserrat y Calderón
Parents: Ishmael and Kimi Thornton
Isadora Thornton (mother, deceased)
DOD: 06/02/1868 (a. 60)
Husband: John Caleb Thornton
Maiden Name: Isadora Kiara de Monserrat y Calderón
William Chance Thornton (older brother, deceased)
DOB: 01/05/1837; DOD: 06/02/1875 (a. 38)
Wife: Regina Beth Thornton (m. 06/05/1862)
Regina Beth Thornton (sister-in-law, deceased)
Husband: William Chance Thornton (m. 06/05/1862)
DOB: 04/05/1845; DOD: 06/02/1875 (a. 30)
Maiden Name: Cantrell
Lilah Beth Thornton (niece, deceased)
DOB: 03/01/1867; DOD: 06/02/1875 (a. 😎
Josiah Grant Thornton (nephew, deceased)
DOB: 05/02/1865; DOD: 06/02/1875 (a. 10)
There are numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides of the Thornton family, including members of the Piegan Blackfeet Nation. Because both Josiah and Caleb Thornton adhered to strict inheritance guidelines, the majority of these relatives are scattered all over the Americas, and there is little to no contact.
Quentin Cantrell (July 1875 - Present)
Quentin is Shade's late sister-in-law's older brother. While he knew that his late sister-in-law had a brother named Quentin, they did not meet until he brought the news of her and Shade's brother's death to Laramie. The two men were not instant best friends, but a genuine liking and respect grew over time. Although only related through the marriage of Chance and Regina, Shade has come to regard the older man as a brother.
John and Marianne Sherman (1870 - Present)
Shade met John and Marianne Sherman when he was employed by the Grand Central Stagecoach Company as a guard and scout. He and John immediately hit it off and became fast friends. In fact, Shade is closer to John than he was to his brother, Chance. Although Shade has returned to Montana due to family obligations, he and the Shermans are still close, exchanging letters and visiting as time allows.
Hannah Cory (1853 - Present)
Hannah and Shade were childhood friends and teenage sweethearts. They began dating at the age of sixteen and and planned to be married in the spring of their seventeenth year. While on a shopping trip a few days prior to the planned elopement date, Shade was embroiled in a gunfight and killed a man. He lit out from Montana, leaving Hannah standing at the altar. Over the years, his alleged exploits have continued to taint how she views him.
Steelgraves: The Steelgrave family have long been enemies of the Thorntons. Please see The Steelgrave Wiki Page for details.
Shade has made many enemies over the years. Some will eventually show up in Kalispell either looking for him or as accidental encounters. They will be added to this list as needed during game play.
| March 13, 1845 |
Jesse Shade Thornton was born to Caleb and Isadora Thornton of Lost Lake Ranch, Kalispell, Territory of Montana. The baby was named for Jesse, a figure described in the Bible as the father of David who became the King of the Israelites. His middle name, Shade, was chosen because he was as dark as his older brother was fair. Their mother often referred to them as Sunlight and Shadow.
| 1845 to 1860 (a. 0-15) |
Shade's early years were spent playing and learning about life on a working ranch and following his older brother, Chance, around. His strong-willed mother was a major influence during his childhood. Like his older brother, Chance, he grew up fluent in English, Spanish, and the Blackfoot tongue. He also inherited his mother's hot Latin temper although he did not resort to Spanish to make his anger known. Caleb also saw much of himself in his younger son's quick-temper and tendencies to impetuous action. Shade often wound up on the wrong end of his father's hand, belt, or missing supper due to being sent to his room.
Due to its distance from town, Lost Lake Ranch had a small informal school held in a cabin near the main house. Isadora Thornton, Kate Hale, and the wives of the hands took turns at teaching. Shade enjoyed school and was a fast learner. Unfortunately, his temper and his issues with discipline made him a difficult student. Despite this, his grades remained high, and he was often tackling subjects that were challenging for the older students, another thing that did not endear him to his peers. Another issue was keeping him in school. If the day was fair and he was bored he would escape during recess to go hiking or riding.
In 1859, at the age of 14, Shade was sent to the school run by the Catholic church in Fort Kalispell. The St. Francis School offered boarding facilities for children that lived too far away to make the trip to Fort Kalispell on a daily basis. Children whose families could not afford to board them were often taken in by families that lived within or near the fort. Naturally, issues often arose between the day students and the boarders.
Trouble started soon after Shade's arrival at the St. Francis School. Unlike Chance, who was held up as a sterling example of what a young man and student should be, Shade was the school's example of what one should not be. Whenever an opportunity presented itself, Shade escaped. Knowing that he'd get a good whipping if he headed home, he often headed for his grandmother's relatives with the Blackfoot tribe. Usually, older members of the tribe would drag him back to the ranch where he had to face the consequences of running away.
Despite being the school's troublemaker and often absent, Shade was an excellent student. He was highly intelligent and enjoyed reading, learned very fast, and usually completed lessons with easily. It took little to no effort for him to stay at the top of his class, even if Sister Mary John often said, rather disparagingly, that Shade was the most likely of her students to be in prison by the age of sixteen.
The bright spot in Shade's life during his years at school was meeting Hannah Cory, the daughter of Fort Kalispell's sheriff, Scott Cory. Hannah and Shade became friends when they both attempted to steal the same horse and escape the confines of the fort. Sheriff Cory found them and dragged them back to the school. He also sent a letter to Caleb Thornton regarding the incident which ensured that Shade wouldn't sit down for dinner for a day or two.
Fall 1860 (a. 15): Reputation with guns
One of the few things that put him on his father's good side, initially, was Shade's remarkable hand-eye coordination and stunning natural ability as a marksman. He also showed an affinity with horses. Even as a child, he could soothe some of the ranch's hardest to manage horses. Whenever Caleb took Shade and Chance hunting or sport-shooting, it was usually Shade that brought back the game or won the contests. Caleb's tendency to brag about Shade's prowess with guns would sow the first seeds of his reputation as a fast gun and gunslinger.
1861 (a. 16): Expelled from school
By the time Shade was sixteen, Chance had completed his studies at Wesleyan College in Stockton, California and was home. For a while, the constant contention with his father was alleviated as Chance and Caleb clashed on how to manage the businesses and the business end of the ranch. Chance had gotten his degree in business and economics. Like many young college graduates, he felt he knew far more than his father.
After getting into a fight with another boy at school and beating him rather badly, both the school and Sheriff Scott Cory had had enough of Shade Thornton. He was expelled from St. Francis and sent home. Caleb was furious and fed up. He sent Shade to live in the bunkhouse, deciding that it was time to make him stand on his own two feet. Had Isadora not interfered, he'd have sent Shade away with his percentage of the Thornton Legacy Trust. Shade never revealed that the fight was because the other boy had tried to molest Hannah. He also persuaded Hannah to stay silent as well, convincing her that her reputation would be ruined if the incident became public.
Being ejected from the house and forced to live as one of the ranch's hands actually had a positive effect on Shade. He loved the work, and the foreman reported that he pulled his weight without shirking or complaining. Unfortunately, and partially in response to his father's tendency to brag about his skill, Shade often found himself being challenged to speed contests by the other hands. The speed duels were harmless, blank cartridges were used instead of live ammo. The only thing that kept Caleb from banning Shade from the ranch entirely was the fact that his son usually refused to shoot at anything other than cans or bottles. On several occasions, Caleb and Ezra heard Shade refuse a speed duel. He would tell the other person that he never drew a gun on a man unless he intended to shoot him. If the other men really wanted to test their speed against him, Shade would ask someone with a stopwatch to time them. He rarely lost.
Shortly after Shade became a ranch hand, he and Hannah Cory began dating. Their long-time friendship had gradually developed into deeper feelings for one another. With a steady job and income, Shade was able to consider taking the next step in his life, a home, and family. He figured that when he came of age, the stipend from the Legacy plus his savings would let him buy a small spread of his own. It would be a good start to the life he wanted to spend with Hannah.
By 1861, hostilities between the southern and northern states were increasing. Charles and Claire Cantrell sent their daughter, Regina, to live with the Thorntons. It was hoped that Regina and Chance would be a good match for one another. Not surprisingly, they did fall in love and made plans to marry the following year (1862).
| 1862 (a. 17) |
Shade continued studying on his own and with Hannah Cory who shared her notes, school books, and lessons with him. Just after the New Year, he sent a letter to the St. Francis School asking to be allowed to take the final exams for graduation in the spring. The school agreed, and Shade was allowed to take his exams. He graduated at the top of his class.
In the late spring of 1862, with Chance and Regina's wedding a couple of months away, Shade proposed to Hannah who happily accepted. Unfortunately, Hannah's father refused his permission, stating that if they felt the same way in a year or two, he would agree to it then. Hannah and Shade made plans to elope, agreeing to meet the night after Shade returned from escorting Regina on a shopping trip to Missoula.
Kills Calvin Steelgrave
Shade was elected to escort Regina Cantrell to Missoula so that she could finish shopping for the wedding. He was happy to make the journey with her because he planned on buying his and Hannah's rings while there.
After leaving a store, Regina was accosted by Calvin Steelgrave, one of Elias Steelgrave's sons. Shade happened by the alley that Steelgrave had dragged Regina into and heard the sound of a woman struggling with a man. Shade rushed in to render aid. He dragged Calvin off his future sister-in-law and beat him rather badly before taking him to the sheriff. After pressing charges and making their statements, Shade and Regina returned to the hotel.
The next day, already free on bail, Calvin attempted to shoot Regina as she and Shade left the hotel. Shade responded automatically and killed Calvin in the shootout. It was clearly a case of self-defense and of defending Regina. There were numerous witnesses, so no charges were brought against Shade. Still, the other Steelgrave brothers vowed to get Shade and anyone that got in their way. The Steelgraves and the Thorntons had long been at odds with one another. Believing that they posed a real threat to himself and his family, Shade chose not to return to the ranch. He made sure Regina had a safe escort home. He gave Regina a letter for his parents, but in his haste to get her on the stagecoach, he neglected to tell her about his planned elopement with Hannah, in essence, leaving her at the altar.
| 1862 to 1865 (a. 17-20): Civil War Years |
Shade had not planned on leaving Montana permanently. He only wanted to stay away long enough for the dust to settle. Figuring he could mend things with Hannah once he got home, he didn't risk sending a letter or telegram for fear their plans would be exposed. He had enough money to buy a good horse and get a room at a boarding house in Helena.
Instead of receiving a letter from his father telling him it was safe to come home, John Caleb arrived at the boarding house. His first action was to knock Shade to the floor. He then informed his son that he had been disowned and was no longer welcome at the ranch. Without giving Shade time to explain or give him a message for Hannah, Caleb walked out.
Shade regretted killing Calvin Steelgrave, and he was hurt and angry by his father's action. In spite of these things, he found that he liked being on his own. After buying the horse and paying for his board, he found himself in need of work. Due to his youth, a majority of the jobs he was offered was riding fence or wrangling strays for various ranches. Only a few places were willing to take a chance on him as a full hand. He loved being on the move and before long, the urge to travel the Big Open dominated his life.
In 1864, a man buying horses for the army saw Shade ride and was impressed with the boy's skill and self-confidence. He offered Shade a job on the spot riding dispatch and training as a scout. Shade accepted and a little while later reported to Fort Lincoln.
| May 12, 1865 - May 13, 1865 |
Shade was with the Union army for the Battle of Palmitto Ranch in Cameron County, Texas, the final action fought by Union and Confederate forces. Shade was wounded and captured along with one hundred Union soldiers. A few weeks later, he was released along with several other non-military men. While in the POW camp, Shade was befriended by a Confederate soldier that had been accused of desertion. The man's name was Randolph Cutler. He took Shade under his wing and saw that he was fed and taken care of during the few short weeks he was imprisoned.
| June to October 1865 |
After being released from the prison, Shade worked his way north, taking odd jobs with the few ranches that were still in operation. It was hard to make a living right after the war. Still, he really liked Texas and was not in a hurry to leave the state.
| 1865 to 1866 (a. 20-21): Cutler's Raiders |
In November, Shade took a job riding for a big spread just outside a small town called Paradise which was about thirty miles from San Antonio. Soon after settling in Paradise, Shade sent a letter to his parents and one to Chance. He really wanted to settle things with his family even if he wasn't ready to go back to Montana yet. He received a terse note from his father stating that John Caleb wanted nothing to do with having an outlaw in the family.
While in the town's cantina, he ran back into Randolph Cutler. After sharing a meal and talking for awhile, Cutler offered Shade a job with his outfit, promising that he would make considerably more money than he would working as a wrangler. Since he still felt that he owed Randolph Cutler for his life, Shade accepted the job offer. He soon realized he had made a huge mistake, but a combination of contrariness and loyalty to Cutler kept him working with the gang. If his father was going to brand him an outlaw, he might as well earn the title. Truthfully though, his heart was not in it. Despite everything, Shade had been brought up to respect and obey the law.
By 1866, Shade had had enough of the outlaw life. He'd spent most of the year at odds with other members of the gang, often interfering with their more violent activities or refusing to take part even when it meant giving up his share of the take. Escaping the outlaw band proved far harder than joining it. The decision was eventually taken out of his hands. After visiting a cantina in San Antonio and posting some letters home, Shade was spotted riding out of town at a brisk gallop. Within a few hours, he had two Texas Rangers on his trail.
Shade probably could have ended his tenure with Cutler's Raiders by leading the two men to the gang's hideout near Paradise and then slipping away during the ensuing melee. A streak of pure cussedness kept him from doing that, and he finally found himself cornered in a narrow arroyo some forty miles from San Antonio. A brief gun battle left one of the men wounded, but also left Shade trapped in the defile with no escape. Although both men repeatedly identified themselves as Texas Rangers, Shade had learned the hard way that the post-war Rangers were not to be trusted. After three days, with water running low, Shade finally surrendered. During the long ride back to San Antonio, Shade was treated well by Hunter and Travis Morgan. Giving in to the inevitable, Shade answered their questions as thoroughly as possible. By the time they reached the town, there was a growing rapport between the two Texas Rangers and the young Montanan.
After being locked up, Shade was left to his own devices except when someone delivered his meals. On the fourth day, an older man identified as Captain Jase Morgan of the San Antonio Texas Rangers' Division entered the cell and sat down for a long talk. After the interrogation, Captain Morgan left. Two days later he returned with the two men that had captured Shade, now identified as his nephews. Morgan and his nephews had arranged a deal with the local judge and constabulary. In exchange for helping them capture Cutler and his gang, Shade would be given a full pardon and acquitted of all criminal charges. Essentially, they were offering him a clean slate. Any debt Shade had owed Randolph Cutler had been paid. The gang was brutal and dangerous, they needed to be stopped. Shade accepted the deal. A few days later while being transferred to a different division, Shade escaped.
The operation was successful. Almost all of the gang were arrested and brought in for trial. Shade did not attend the trials and definitely did not attend the hangings. He was getting ready to ride out of San Antonio when Travis and Hunter Morgan dropped in to see him and offer him a permanent job with the Rangers. Shade thought it over but declined and countered with an offer of his own. He had really enjoyed the adrenaline rush of working undercover. He proposed that he keep doing what he had been doing. He would embed himself with various outlaw gangs and feed any information he could glean to the Rangers. Jason Morgan was not enthusiastic about the plan initially but finally agreed that Texas needed to be cleaned up and this was a good way to do it.
| 1866 to 1869 (a. 21-24) |
Undercover work for Texas Rangers.
March 2, 1868: Caleb Thornton dies of natural causes (a. 62)
June 2, 1868: Isadora Thornton dies of natural causes (a. 60)
1869: Word goes out that the Texas Rangers are being replaced by the State Police.
For the next three years, Shade worked for the Texas Rangers in their San Antonio Division although not as an actual Ranger. He was good at infiltrating outlaw gangs and thrived on the danger. He'd made his reputation with Cutler's Raiders and was generally known as a quick-tempered hot-head with a really fast gun hand. Although he wrote to his mother and Chance, he never again tried to contact his father.
In late March, Shade received a telegram from his brother, Chance, informing him of their father's death. He made the decision to not return to Montana, one that he would regret for the rest of his life.
When word came down that the Texas Rangers were being dissolved and would be replaced by a Union run state police, Shade gathered his belongings and headed out.
He spent the next several months on the drift and working various jobs: wrangler, ranch hand, guard and scout. He also worked several range wars although he refused to lead attacks and ambushes and would only fight in self-defense and defense of his employer. He tried to learn and evaluate all the issues involved in these actions before hiring on and refused jobs that called for being paid a bounty for killing the opposition. Killing for hire was a line that Shade never crossed, not counting his occasional work for law enforcement and the military.
His quick temper, and sense of justice and fair play continued to get him into trouble although it also garnered him respect and a few good friends. Shade did not seek out gunfights, but would not back down or run from them either. With no shortage of men wanting to make their own mark by beating the best, Shade's reputation and his legend grew to the point that he often did not recognize himself in the stories. On the reverse of the coin, it also meant that his reputation as a gunfighter helped him avoid fights since many men backed down after hearing his name.
| 1870 to 1875 (a. 25-30) |
1870 (a. 25): Hired by Grand Central Stagecoach Company.
1871 (a. 26): Charged with murder in Willow, Colorado.
06/02/1875: Chance, Regina, Beth and Grant Thornton are murdered.
Late June 1875: Meets Quentin Cantrell, Regina Thornton's brother; returns to Montana.
Shade was offered a job with the Grand Central Stagecoach Company as a guard and scout. He would be stationed out of Laramie in the territory of Wyoming. On his way to report for his new job, Shade was ambushed by a couple of bounty hunters and shot. His horse made its way to the Sherman Ranch and Relay Station, the last stop on the stagecoach's line before town. John Sherman and his wife, the owners, took him in, defended him when the bounty hunters showed up and nursed him back to health. After learning that they were hunting him for personal reasons, not legal ones, John offered him work on their ranch and a place to live.
Shade accepted and moved into the bunkhouse. When not actively engaged riding shotgun for the stage and express coaches, Shade pitched in and worked the ranch. John's two sons, Andy and Mike, were soon calling him Uncle Shade. For the first time in years, Shade felt at home and began losing the urge to go on the drift again. He loved the Shermans and felt at home in Wyoming.
In the early fall of 1870, a few months after settling at the Sherman Ranch, Shade was bringing in strays from the high country. During the ride down, he spotted a small band of wild horses and was taken by a striking grullo colored yearling colt. When he asked Sherm about the horse, Shade was told that the yearling's dam was a Colonial Quarter Horse that John bought after the war. He'd planned on using the mare as one of the foundations of his bloodstock herd. The colt's sire was an outlaw, a feral Quarter Horse that had gotten loose from another ranch and periodically raided for mares. John also told Shade that if he could bring in the colt, he could have him, especially if he managed to capture the black mare too. Since his bay, Brimstone, was getting on in years, Shade decided to make a try for the big smoky dun colt.
Shade named the colt Lakota after the Lakota Sioux who had taken him in and nursed him back to health after a rattlesnake bite. He eventually managed to capture the spirited yearling and bring him and his dam to the ranch. Lakota proved a challenge to gentle and train. In time, however, he became the best horse that Shade had ever trained, even surpassing his beloved gelding, Brimstone.
In 1871, while delivering stock to a rancher just outside Willow, Colorado, Shade was framed for murder by an old friend who was having an affair with the man's wife. Shade was finally able to clear himself, but it resulted in more handbills being circulated and not recalled.
In a stunning twist of fate, Shade's brother, sister-in-law, and their two oldest children are killed seven years to the day after their mother's passing.
In late June, a stranger arrives at the Sherman ranch on the morning stage. Hard on his heels are several gunmen. After a pitched gun battle, Shade learns that the stranger is Quentin Cantrell, the brother of his sister-in-law. Quentin sadly informs Shade of the deaths of Chance, Regina, and their two oldest children, Beth and Grant. He also tells Shade that he was named in the will as the guardian of the two remaining children. He's needed at home.
Three days later, Shade and Quentin set off for Montana. They are ambushed near the border of Idaho and Quentin is wounded in the arm. Shade patches Quentin up as best as he can, but infection sets in. Hoping to find a good doctor, he makes arrangements for train passage to Sacramento. While Quentin rests, Shade learns that there is now a small private railroad line that runs to Missoula Mills in Montana. He spends a bit extra to book the train's private car.
Spanish (Fluent, learned from mother)
Native American sign language, smattering of languages
Shade completed his junior year of high school before being expelled. He can read, write, and do basic math. Shade is well-read although he never returned to school.
For details regarding the Thornton's wills, see The Thornton Family Wiki Page.
Age: 6 years
Hands: Not quite 17 hands.
Breed: Quarter Horse
Color: Grullo (Smoky Black). Lakota is a black grullo (p. grew-yoh), his body color is a lighter shade than his mane and tail. He has the distinctive black dorsal stripe common to all duns. His mane and tail are a darker black and he has four black stockings.
Disposition: Lakota is quite spirited, but well mannered and very well trained. Although there is no such thing as a one-person horse, Lakota shows a marked preference for Shade and is quite hard to manage for others. Like any horse, he has become accustomed to being handled and ridden in a certain way.
Shade has not had Lakota gelded as he intends to make him a foundation sire of his own bloodstock line someday.
Previous Owner: Chance Thornton
Age: 8 years
Hands: 16.1 hands
Breed: Quarter Horse / Spanish Mustang
Color: Medicine Hat paint. Spirit is a black and white pinto (aka paint). His base coat is white with black patterns. His mane, tail, and legs are black. Spirit's face is mostly white with. His crown and ears are black giving him the appearance of wearing a hat, hence how this color pattern received its name of medicine hat. Spirit's left eye has a narrow, light blue ring around the iris. A blue eye on a horse is uncommon, but not detrimental or more prone to equine eye diseases than normal brown irises. His right eye is a normal dark brown.
Disposition: Spirit is a strongly spirited mount, but mostly well-mannered. He is a top stock and saddle horse. His Quarter Horse blood gives him speed and agility while the Mustang blood gives him endurance. Spirit was bred and trained on the ranch.
Sagas' Shade Thornton is based on the character of Jess Harper from the classic television western series, Laramie. I have also incorporated aspects of the character Cooper Smith from Wagon Train, also portrayed by Robert Fuller. An original background has been created for the RPG character.
Shade is designed to be the classic western leading man and hero with a troubled past, and something of a Knight Errant often coming to the aid of those he considers down and out or as the underdog in various situations.
Shade read the letter that Mike had handed him. When finished, he folded it and handed it back, "That's one solid reference." Before continuing, he pointed to the thick roast beef and cheddar sandwiches that Mary had brought, "Please help yourselves and excuse me for a moment. Clara, will you help me get the twins set up with a sandwich and something to drink?" He carefully got to his feet and called out, "Nettie, Cody - come eat," he gestured at a nearby low table that was ideal for the kids.
"Of course, Shade," Clara nodded and set the book aside then stood up, "Excuse me, gentlemen."
It was all rather easy, both children were hungry and they liked such sandwiches so Clara needed to do little other than watch as they then settled down to eat. Clara went back into the kitchen and returned with a pitcher of fresh milk, filling their glasses. Once they were served and happily chewing away, she then reached for a sandwich herself. As she munched on it standing over the kids, she once more listened into the ongoing conversation.
Returning to his seat, Shade reached for a sandwich and the tea pitcher before sitting back down, "Back when I did the hirin' for the place I worked before coming home, I depended on instinct more than a bunch of formal questions. I've not met your brother Matt, but I have heard good things about the Belle-St. Regis since he took over. What do you say to a month's trial for all three of you? We can put Charlie on up here at the house and main barn until he gets his ranch legs under him. It's forty dollars a month and your gear, if you need it. As foreman, Mike, you get the option of the foreman's cabin in the valley next to the bunkhouse, or the foreman's quarters in the bunkhouse. Sound fair?"
Shade chuckled, "There you go, Mr. Wentworth. You have already passed the first hurdle. Any friend of Clara's is a friend of mine." He gestured at the chairs that were scattered around. "Please have a seat."
Clara gave a Cheshire Cat grin to Charlie, knowing he probably was not thrilled to hear that conversational tidbit.
Just then, Mary entered with sandwiches, lemonade and iced tea. "I'll bring coffee out in a bit, making a fresh pot." She disappeared back inside, intent on her own work.
Cody and Nettie looked up from where they were playing. However, since Clara and Shade seemed at-ease with the strangers, they returned to their activities. Five years old was still a bit young to care overmuch about ranch business.
"The primary job we're hiring for is the day foreman. Sage Miller, our housekeeper's husband, is our night foreman and will be continuing in that role. He didn't want to make the change to days but is and will be a valuable resource. The Millers have been with us for a very long time," Shade paused for a moment. "We are losing our senior foreman as well as two assistant hands since his wife and eldest son worked here too. That means I can possibly run to hiring more than one position."
"Can you tell me a little about your work experience? Do you have references from any former jobs?" Shade was well aware that most ranch hands came and went. He wanted someone that was interested in staying so was being a bit more cautious than normal. Shade also guessed they must be related to the new hotel owner in town, Matt Wentworth. That might be incentive for them to remain in the area.
The morning was fading toward noon. Shade was still relaxing on the terrace, content to stare at the stunning scenery. He had been joined by Clara Redmond and his five-year-old niece and nephew, Cody and Nettie. The twins were playing nearby, talking to one another in low voices. Occasionally, Shade heard a word or two and realized that while they were almost familiar, the words were not in any English dictionary he had seen. It appeared that the twins communicated to one another in a language all their own. He found it interesting and determined that he would ask them about it when he read to them at night.
Speaking of reading...
Clara had determined that it was her duty to read to Shade to help him relax and keep his mind alert. After all, at his age, injuries could lead to other detrimental impacts on his health. He had grinned when she made her pronouncement, barely refraining from asking her exactly how old she thought he was. Shade was still amused, but he enjoyed Clara's company and their often spirited conversations. He had also persuaded her to read from some of his history books and biographies of prominent persons past and present. From time-to-time, Shade interrupted the reading when something of interest got his attention. He had an old pair of service binoculars with him that he used to observe the various wild things that inhabited the area around the lake.
The next interruption came when Mary stepped out on the terrace and cleared her throat. "Mr. Shade, some gentlemen are here to see you about the job openings, including the foreman's position." There was a note of relief in her voice. Mary's husband, Sage Miller, was the ranch's night foreman. With Shade and Ezra Hale injured, he had been trying to pull extra shifts to keep things running right. She knew that Shade had offered him the foreman's position, but he had declined. He liked working nights and the extra money it brought in.
"Show them out here, please, Mary," Shade said. It was simply too beautiful a day to go back into the house. He thought of asking Clara to take the twins inside but changed his mind. It wouldn't hurt the kids to hear him talking to the men. After all, someday it would be their job to run things.
A few moments later, Mary returned with the visitors in tow. Stating that she would return with more sandwiches and a pitcher of iced tea, Mary withdrew. Shade gazed at the three men for a moment and came to the conclusion that they had to be related in some way. He turned his dark blue eyes onto the oldest of the three.
Shade indicated his injured leg, "Please forgive me for not standing. Lost a fight with a bear. I'm Shade Thornton. This is Miss Clara Redmond, a family friend." His voice was pleasant with the tone leaving the impression that he was inviting them to introduce themselves.
Mature Content: No
With: Mike Wentworth, Wentworth Brothers Location: Blackbird Lodge, front terrace When: Early September 1875 Time of Day: Mid-to-Late Morning
According to some folks, Blackbird Lodge had been built backward. The courtyard and main entrance were on the side of the house that the family considered its rear. Isadora Thornton had wanted it that way, so the coming and going of horses in the courtyard would not distract from the vista of the vast crater lake and the mountains. Ranch hands and others that had had business with John Caleb Thornton could come and go without disturbing her. Isadora's husband had, at first, objected to the building site she had chosen for that very reason. She had overridden his objections by pointing out that it also meant only one main entrance to defend should the need arise. No one would be able to enter the house from the side of the house that overlooked the lake. It made perfect sense to her and, after thinking it over for a while, John Caleb had agreed with her.
Shade had grown up with stories of how Blackbird Lodge came to be where it was. The house was built on a flat expanse of bedrock that jutted out from one of the lower peaks of the Chogun Mountain Range. Although technically not a basin, it had been named Moonlight Basin due to the slight concavity of the outcropping. The area was surrounded by creeks and waterfalls, all making their way down the mountain to the Chogun River or into Lost Lake, which lay far below the house's front terrace. The house had been built out of local river stone, massive redwoods hauled in from the west coast, and local oak and aspen. Shade's father had spared no expense, including having massive windows built into the front of the house so that one always had a view of the mountains, forests, and lake. The lodge was as beautiful as his mother had been and as rugged as his father. It reflected his parents' personalities perfectly.
The morning had been well advanced when Shade made his way down from the office and study attached to the master bedroom. He had honestly wanted to continue living in the downstairs room that had been his when he was a kid, but Laura Hale had put her foot down. While she and her husband, Ezra, lived in the lodge, it had made sense for them to live in the upstairs master suite. Ezra often worked on the ranch's ledgers late into the night. It was easier for him to do that in the office and study that was attached to the main bedroom. It had also kept Laura near the children's room. Laura had insisted that Shade needed to take over the master suite so that he would be on the same floor as the five-year-old twins. It made sense. It had also seemed to bring home the fact that the Hales were retiring and moving away and that everything was changing.
Mary Miller, the ranch's housekeeper and cook, greeted him with a bit of a frown. Her sharp eyes noted that he was leaning heavier on the cane than he had been. The repeated trips up and down the stairs required to move his belongings had left the injured leg sore.
"You go sit out on the terrace, Mr. Shade. It's a beautiful day. I'll bring coffee and sandwiches." She did not scold him for coming down late since she had brought his breakfast up to his office just after dawn. "When do you think Mr. Quentin and Miss Harriet will get back?"
"Not for a few days yet, Mary. I figure it'll take them longer to move twenty-five head to the south end of Lake Flathead than it'll take Sage to move the hundred and fifty all the way to Missoula," Shade replied with a chuckle.
Taking Mary's advice, Shade exited the house and settled in one of the chairs on the terrace. Leaning forward, he dragged one of the smaller chairs over so that he could prop his leg up. A few minutes later, Mary came out with a tray of sandwiches and a pot of coffee. Shade poured himself a cup of coffee and picked up a sandwich.
With: Quentin Cantrell, Harriet Mercer Location: Ranch Office, Blackbird Lodge When: September / 02 / 1875 (Thursday Time of Day: Mid-morning
Shade leaned back in his desk chair. He had spent the first three days after the bear hunt in bed and barely conscious. Finally, his head had cleared, and he was getting up and around. He still had a tendency to fall asleep without warning, which was the lingering after-effect of the concussion. Shade was also supposed to keep his injured leg elevated and use a crutch for getting around. Finding that he had a tendency to trip over it, he had gone to the attic and dug out his father's old cane. It was a sturdy custom-built cane made from solid oak with a carved wolf's head handle. John Caleb Thornton had needed it after breaking his ankle one winter.
Today, he was writing checks for the monthly bills. The ranch still took in more money than it had to pay out each year. However, as things stood, Lost Lake was going to barely make the mandated six-percent profit that had been part of the judge's ruling regarding the ranch and custody of his five-year-old niece and nephew. On top of that, he had to send one of the hands into Kalispell with an ad for the Kalispell Union.
Ezra Hale was recovering from the bear attack which had been the catalyst for Lost Lake getting involved in hunting the animal down. It was going to be most of a year before he would be able to resume any of his duties. Ezra had come that close to dying! Yesterday, Ezra had told Shade that he and Laura, his wife, would be retiring. Once they got their small ranch sold, they would be heading for Texas to settle near their eldest daughter. It made sense, but Ezra and Laura had been a big part of Lost Lake Ranch for nearly forty years. They would be sorely missed.
It also meant that Shade needed to find a new foreman since he would have to take over ranch management. Otherwise, Quentin was going to have to juggle managing the various other business interests and the ranch. Even with Harriet overseeing everything, including all contracts, it was a monumental job. It was just logical for Shade to take on the business management of the ranch as well as working the range as needed. That was providing, of course, that he could find a good foreman that would not steal them blind.
A rustle of skirts and soft footsteps heralded the arrival of Harriet Mercer. Shade wondered if there was a way to compliment the woman's choice of footwear without giving offense? Since his injury, he and Harriet had formed an uneasy truce. After some thought, Shade chose to not make any comments on her soft-soled silk slippers.
"We have a problem, Shade," Harriet stated in her usual forthright manner as she laid some documents in front of him. "We owe Fort Poison twenty-five head of cattle within two-weeks, or we forfeit the remainder of the sale price. They only paid ten percent upfront."
Shade sat straight up, "But most of the hands are taking the bulk of the marketable herd to the Missoula yards!" It was a habit for the ranch to sell off a large part of their older animals, so they did not have to be wintered. Pregnant cows and weanlings would be brought up and ready for the range during the harsh winter months. In the next second, Shade wondered how he had missed that contract. Before he could speak, Harriet was waving her hand.
"No, you did not miss it. It was at the bottom of one of the folders of completed contracts that Chance had in the files," Harriet said as if reading Shade's mind. "Chance usually sent me all of the new contracts, and I kept copies. This one is a year-to-year one that I have not previously seen." She sighed and dropped into the chair opposite the big oak desk.
Somewhere in the distance, someone was calling his name, yelling for him actually. Shade could not place the voice at first. His mental processes felt sluggish and disconnected from everything. And, his head hurt to the point that even opening his eyes to the light of day was painful. Gradually, Shade remembered the danger. They, he and someone else, had been hunting a huge...a huge what?
Shade knew he needed to get to his feet or at least try to respond to the voice that was calling his name. He got his eyes opened which did not help much since everything was blurry. Reaching out, he touched what felt like a rock. Grabbing hold, he started to pull himself up but stopped halfway when his right leg tried to buckle beneath his weight. Giving up since neither his head or his leg were cooperating, Shade simply leaned against the boulder.
The voice yelled again, and suddenly everything was crystal clear. He had been tracking the bear when it mounted a counter-attack. Shade's head still hurt horribly, and so did his leg, but he knew who was yelling his name now.
"Quentin!" Shade yelled, now worried more for the hunting party than for his own situation. "Quentin! The bear...." He slid back down the boulder to sit at its base and leaned back on it. Now, what had he been about to say?
Shade allowed Lakota a good long drink before vaulting lightly back into the saddle. "Let's go, fella," he said to the horse as he patted the animal's neck and turned him back onto the faint trail.
Over the next two hours, Shade alternated riding and walking the trail to make sure he did not lose sight of the bear's tracks. He was also stopping frequently to compare the track to the other animals' signs in the area and debris so he could estimate their age. It was not an exact science, and the best anyone could do was make an educated guess. Fortunately, Shade had been taught by one of the best. The relationship was convoluted, but John Warbow was connected through his paternal grandmother's side of the family.
Those thoughts led Shade to think about how things stood with Montana's Indians. Incidents had been on the rise in the territory and all over the west. Good men and bad men on both sides were adding to the unrest. Right now, the Nez Perce were not caught up in the incidents. Shade hoped it remained that way. He did not want to be put in the position of taking up arms against his grandmother's people.
A rabbit shooting across the trail almost under Lakota's front hooves brought Shade's attention squarely back to the job at hand. The big horse snorted with annoyance but did not shy or try to bolt. Taking that as a sign that he should dismount again, Shade swung his leg over the saddle and dropped easily to the ground. Despite the hours in the saddle, he wasn't stiffening up. Riding came as easily as breathing to him.
Tense, because he wondered what had spooked the rabbit out of the brush, Shade made sure his rifle was ready. The rabbit was long gone, but still, he felt uneasy. Leaving Lakota ground-tied, Shade walked slowly forward. Out of habit, he stepped carefully, making as little sound as possible. The warning signs were subtle. There was a sudden silence in the forest around them just as the breeze brought with it a strong, musky scent.
Shade whirled, bringing up his rifle. He managed to get a shot off, but it did not slow the animal down. Before he could fire again, agony flared in his leg as the massive bear's claws raked down his right thigh. Shade's leg did not quite buckle, and he pulled the pistol from his belt and fired. The shot went wide as a massive paw hit him again, sending him off his feet. Shade slammed down hard on a clump of small boulders next to the trail and lost consciousness as his head impacted one of the rocks....
Shade surreptitiously watched the two women leave the store. He could not help but feel that something momentous had happened although he had no idea what it was. He shook the feeling off and handed his order over to Mr. Wilson. After being assured it would be ready when he returned, Shade went looking for someone to help him and Quentin kill a bear.
Shade smiled, "I will send word in once it's safe, Miss Bowen. It's a really long trip out to the main house so you will likely want to plan on an overnight trip. Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Hale will be there in case I'm on the range." He really wanted to keep her talking. However, he could not think of anything else to say. Besides, he really needed to get his order placed and head out to see if anyone else was interested in joining the ranch's hunting party.
Tipping his hat, he gave a small nod of respect and stepped aside, leaving Miss Bowen room to pass him and get on with her business.
@JulieS Final tags... or if you feel this is good, I'll move Shade on. Just let me know.
Shade gathered up Lakota's reins and led the big smoky dun gelding to the stream so he could drink. He glanced back at Aurelian and smiled, "Not all predators will do it. Mostly, it's older animals that have experience at hunting and being hunted. Like humans learn to circle around to see who or what might be trackin' them, animals can figure it out too. I only know about this bear because we experienced it when he came after me, Clara, and the kids."
He ran a hand down Lakota's shoulder and legs, feeling for heat. The horse was still in good shape, not even breathing hard. Shade elected to keep riding him. If the bear did come after the hunting party, he'd rather be astride a mount that he knew well. "I think another two or three hours and if the sign doesn't get fresher, we should make camp. Don't want to be caught on the trail after dark if the creature attacks."
Tags @Players (anyone can move us on again too)
Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.
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