"I like to think what I do is tell stories that rhyme," Carson said during an interview with The Park Record. "I mean I look at what people consider classic poetry and those words don't, in my mind, fit with the kind of stuff we do.
"I was never a fan of poetry when I was growing up in school" he said. "You know, you have to read all those poetry books and none of it made sense to me. But when I went to my first cowboy poetry gathering and listened to those guys, I heard stories that, as I said before, rhyme. And since I have been a cowboy all my life, I understood what they were taking about."
Carson will be among the many rhyming storytellers and musicians who will perform at the 18th annual Heber Valley Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair, Oct. 31 through Nov. 4, in Heber.
He's been participating in the annual gathering since 2002, and has seen it grow from a one-night performance into a multi-day event.
"When the first event started out, it was held in the Midway Town Hall," Carson said. "The founder, Tom Whitaker, was a fan of cowboy poetry and recruited a couple of horse trainers in town who had memorized some poems from other people.
"They had someone cook a chili dinner and sent out mailers and set up some chairs," he said. "They expected 50 or 60 people, but they kept having to set up more chairs for the people who arrived."
These days the Heber gathering brings in the top poets and musicians in the genre.
"You have Michael Martin Murphey, Suzy Boggus, Sons of the San Joaquin, Waddie Mitchell and the Bar J Wranglers in the same show, and they are just the headliners," Carson said. "Tom has made this into one of the main gatherings, next to Elko, in the country."
Carson will perform many times during the week.
"I'll be performing at the Midway Town Hall and on the Heber Creeper, and then I'll do a mini VIP concert with Michael Martin Murphey and another with the Sons of the San Joaquin," he said. "Then I'll be on the main stage, where I'll do three spots a day. I think I'll have nine different shows altogether."
Carson will present works culled from his stories he has written over the years.
"I have a repertoire of 30 different poems, and I try to write a couple of new ones each year for the gathering," he said.
In addition to performing in Heber and other events around the country, Carson also performs at corporate events.
"Those shows are like my bread-and-butter," he said.
Carson likes to write a story that will specifically tie into the organization producing the event.
"For example, a victims' rights advocate gathering came to town and they asked me to write a poem about victims' rights, so I did," he said. "I also wrote one about (Brigham Young University football coach) Bronco Mendenhall during his fundraiser. The organizers called and asked me to write a poem about him."
Sometimes writing for those types of events proves to be the biggest challenge.
"It's like trying to create something that you don't know much about," he said. "People say 'write about what you know.' I know the cowboy lifestyle. I know horses and mules and that kind of stuff. But how do I write something about victims' rights?"
Still, those challenges turn into rewards when he gives his performances.
"I like introducing people to this style of poetry who have never heard it," he said. "With most of the events, a lot of the people don't know what cowboy poetry is. I show up in a cowboy hat and boots and they look at me funny. But when I stand up and start to entertain, it's great to see their eyes light up.
"In fact, I had a lady send me an email from a Rotary convention that I did, and she said she thought she would be bored to tears, but she shed tears from laughing."
Although Carson doesn't read a lot of other people's works, he is a big fan of Waddie Mitchell.
"He is probably the most famous cowboy poet in the country these days," Carson said. "I'm also a big fan of Bruce Kiskaddon, who was active in the early 1940s and 50s. He's gone, now, but an incredible poet."
Cowboy poetry started on the range in the 1800s.
"The cowboys would finish their work and sit around the campfire in the bunkhouse and entertain each other," Carson explained. "Since they didn't have any radios or TVs, they would tell stories.
"Some of the storytellers began putting rhymes about what happened throughout the day or year in tales called windies," he said. "Then some they took those poems and went further and put music to them."
Carson's wrote his first story 12 or 13 years ago after Heber City officials allowed a developer to build some high-density housing into an area that wasn't zoned for it, he said.
"There was a wetlands there and other issues that were ignored," Carson said. "I went to all the city planning meetings and protested, but they allowed it anyway."
Carson got "so dang mad" that he wrote a poem which was published in the local paper.
"The developer's attorney saw the poem and wrote a rebuttal," Carson said. "I, in turn, wrote a rebuttal poem to his rebuttal, and thought, 'This is kind of fun and I'm really enjoying this.' And that's how I started writing my own poetry."
When not writing about the annual Heber gathering or corporations who hire him to entertain, Carson writes about a wide variety of topics.
"I've been a cowboy all my life and live in the area, but my stories come from all different sources," he said. "A lot of times I'll hear a joke or a punch line and take that punch line and put a different twist on it. Then sometimes I just have an idea or a thought, and some are about actual events.
"Many of us like to write about wrecks," Carson said with a grin. "When you ride horses and rope cows, there are always some wrecks."
Carson admits, though, he is concerned about the future of cowboy poetry.
"We have to appeal to the youth, because we're all getting older now, and the ranch lifestyles are kind of dying out," he said. "Some of the gatherings have youth shows, where they encourage the younger people to participate, so we're hoping that continues.
"We are trying to keep the cowboy spirit alive, and we know people are enamored with the West and cowboys," he said. "But we hope the cowboy doesn't become a dying breed."
The 18th Annual Heber Valley Cowboy Poetry Gather and Buckaroo Fair's mission is "To promote the cowboy way of life through music, poetry and art," Carson said.
"We want the spirit to continue through the years."
The 18th Annual Heber Valley Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair, Oct. 31 through Nov. 4, Heber City in selected venues. Tickets for each performance vary in cost and are available at www.hebercitycowboypoetry.com.