PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. >> Ken Wibecan, who has recently begun writing occasional columns for this newspaper, started writing for the Reformer nearly 50 years ago. When he left Brooklyn in the mid-1960s and arrived in Brattleboro, there were no African-American columnists at the Reformer — so he volunteered.
"We were in the middle of the civil rights revolution and they didn't have any columns by black people," he said in a recent telephone interview. "So I recommended myself. They said yes.
"I wrote a weekly column for about a year," he continued.
He came to Brattleboro with his wife because he loved the outdoors.
"I got sick of the city," he said. "I used to go backpacking a lot, and canoeing and climbing over local mountains."
After a few years in Brattleboro, he left to start the Third World Studies program at Goddard College, and spent the next seven years there.
"I left Vermont in 1976," he recalled. "I went out to California and stayed there 20 years and then we came back."
Wibecan worked as an editor for Modern Maturity magazine, and when his division moved to Washington, D.C., he moved, too, and worked there until he retired in 2002 and moved back to mountains — but in New York's North Country, across Lake Champlain from Vermont.
"I'd always loved the Adirondacks," he commented. "I wanted to move to Vermont, but Vermont got too expensive, so I moved to the other side of the lake. I still had friends here.
"I love Vermont," he went on. "I still think that Vermont is the most ideal place to live in the United States, and I would still be living there if it weren't so expensive. Houses cost more money than I could afford when I was looking."
He began writing occasional columns for the Plattsburgh Press-Republican.
"I don't have a schedule or anything," he said. He writes about "pretty much whatever comes into my little brain.
"I get tired of writing about race matters all the time, especially since there's no such thing as race anyway, and I get tired of writing about something that doesn't exist. Race doesn't exist — try defining it and you'll see."
Now his topics are varied — and include politics.
"The kind of stuff that I write about is partly political and partly outdoorsy," he said. "There's a need for information about civil rights and that kind of stuff that's not generally well-met in most newspapers. I think there's a lot of things that people do unknowingly without intent — semi-insulting things they do.
"For example, one of the words that gets me going is the word 'minority,'" he continued. "I don't even like to hear it . It doesn't even make sense. Why use it for only certain people? Everyone's a minority. Whenever Europeans first came to this country, they hadn't even invented 'white people' yet. There were Germans and English and Italians and they didn't even like each other — and then they invented the term 'white people.' There was a time when that term didn't even exist."
Other than politics, Wibecan writes about "Whatever's going on, especially something to do with the outdoors, or my dog," he said. He has two rescue dogs.
"I have one blind dog and one dog that can't bark," he said. "You never know what's happened to a dog. I just rescue them, that's all. I don't ask any questions.
"I like to write about animals, and I like to write about the Adirondacks," he commented. "I love the Adirondacks." He has summited 33 of the 46 peaks in the range.
"I like to look for the things that other people miss," he concluded. "That's what I have the most fun doing."
Maggie Brown Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.