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Sierra Vista, Arizona
About Jon Messenger
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When the Purple Shadows Fall

The shadows of the evening cross this lonely trail,
            As I rein my pony toward the home corral,
His head is hangin' low, and my weary heart is yearnin',
            To be rockin' on the front porch with my gal.
We should be ridin' easy, as we rock along for home...
            But I'm thinkin' as the purple shadows fall...
That if the highways and the houses keep creepin' 'cross the range,
            That soon there won't be nothin' left at all.

            We' re ridin' tighter circles on an ever shrinkin' range...
                        And the leases that we're payin' take a bigger piece of change...
            And the ghosts of empty saddles never seemed so real at all...
                        As they do now, when the purple shadows fall.

When the old men rode these mountains, all the range was wild and free,
            In the days before the spoilin' of the land...
Come the wire, then the concrete, they began to tear apart,
            A way of life they refused to understand.
Now they say it needs protectin', this blessed range of ours...
            An' they're claimin' that the cattle are to blame...
As the asphalt stain of progress creeps like cancer 'cross our range,
            An' this life we love may never be the same.

            And the voices of the old hands seem to whisper in my ear,
                        That the time to make a change is drawing near...
            As they spur their ponies through the clouds you can hear their ghostly call...

                        Come lately, when the purple shadows fall.
Now I'm thinkin' 'bout  my children, as the homestead comes in view,
            In the distance I can hear the cattle bawl...
Is there justice for a cowman in this troubled land of ours,
            Do these children have a future here at all?

Don't bite the hand that feeds you...that's what my Grandpa said...
            His words of wisdom I can still recall...
Lord, these folks that we've been dealing with don't seem to understand,
            That they've got us with our backs against the wall.

            The time has come to stand and fight, that's what the old men say...
                        If you listen, you can hear 'em ask us all...
            Which side will you be choosin'...when the Judgment Riders call,
                        Some evenin'...when the Purple Shadows fall...?

            Oh, which side will you be choosin, when the Judgment Riders call,
                        Some evenin'...
                                  When the Purple Shadows fall.

1995, Jon Messenger 
This work may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Jon told us, The poem just came out. Ranch families in this part of the country were
being squeezed out to make room for the ticky-tacky men to do their worst. One fine afternoon, this poem and another, "Little Cowpoke's Christmas Prayer," fell out. The Christmas prayer came first, and then "Purple Shadows." My partner at the time, Ken Moore, with whom I performed as "Rimfire" had brought his youngest son, Dusty, who was about 5 or 6 years old at the time, to the 1st Cochise County gathering, where a photographer from the Sierra Vista Herald caught Dusty down on one knee next to a rock fire circle. He had one of his father's old sweat-stained hats perched on his head, just down over his ears, his head bowed, and for all the world looked like he was in prayer.

I just remember looking at that picture for a while and then we had a coupla good poems. "Li'l Cowpoke" took a melody, and is on my Ponydance album. You can find clips at

About Jon Messenger:

official biography

Arizona singer/songwriter Jon Messenger is an old hippie in a cowboy hat, with an eclectic musical background. Influenced by everything he's heard, he likes to say, "I play what I can, and what I can't, I want to learn." Jon's original Folk and Western tunes have been well received by audiences at festivals and gatherings throughout the West, and these songs reflect Jon's love of the West and the American Cowboy.

Bringing a unique approach to today's Cowboy and Western Music, Jon's vocal and acoustic guitar stylings blend together to bring to all his audiences a haunting and authentic portrait of cowboy life, past and present.
Interspersed with the fine Western Music are some wonderful selections of Cowboy Poetry, some by traditional authors, and some original poems from Jon's pen.

Jon has been playing at gatherings, festivals, churches for a long time...almost exclusively performing Western Music around the southwest and points east, west and north of Sierra Vista, Arizona for nearly fifteen
years with a smattering of bluegrass and western swing in the between spots. He was a founding member of the Western trio, Rimfire, and played guitar for the very popular Raw Deal Bluegrass Band. An ongoing collaboration with Jeanne Cahill and Jerome Campbell...they of Oklahoma's Call of the West, in 2004 produced the recording Ponydance...the recording features ten original tunes and and two treatments of old and new classics...the title tune was also recorded by award winning Western singer-songwriter Kip Calahan, and Ponydance was among the top five nominees for the Western Music Association's 2004 Song of the

The love and appreciation of the Western state of mind is in every tune he writes; Jon has earned his spurs among true cowboy poets and musicians. He writes some of the most hauntingly beautiful songs of our time and has found a way to express insights into the livestock community that most people simply overlook. He's become an integral part of the Western Music community, and is well respected as a performer and songwriter by all.

Jon served four years as a member of the Board of Directors of the Western Music Association; three years of which were served as the President of the Board of Directors. After a brief reprieve, he has found himself once again occupying a seat on the WMA Board.  He is also a member of the WMA Advisory.

With an eye on the future, Jon's presentations of Western song and verse are dedicated to the fierce spirit of liberty exemplified by the ranching community and the love of self-sufficient freedom.



La Roca
Old Pelloncios
I Miss My Sweetheart
 Irish Cowboy
Roses in the Yard
   Shug's Tune
Between the Lines
Ghost Riders
Li'l' Cowpoke's Christmas Prayer
Welcome to the Romance
 The Razor's Edge
order information and sample tracks at:

Jon Messenger's web site:



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