His black tie; a rotting package of $5,800 in $20 bills that matched the serial numbers of the $200,000 in ransom money; pieces of parachute debris – these were the only physical evidence that suggested the possible landing site of the skyjacker who – on the dark night of November 24, 1971 – bailed out of the jetliner over the Pacific Northwest at an altitude of 1.9 miles.
So began one of the FBI’s “longest and most exhaustive investigations” of the infamous D.B. (initials the media would give him) Cooper, the only unsolved skyjacking in American history.
Forty-five years have come and gone since Cooper made his dramatic exodus, time – and money – enough to have solved what the FBI says probably isn’t going to happen. Nearly a half-century can reforest an entire landscape after all.
Or a truck.
Especially in the appropriately named town of Mist, Oregon where this picture was taken just days ago.
The 119-mile Nehalem River widens into a valley beyond Riverside, renamed Mist in 1888 given the perpetual fog, and rain, and occasional snow that seem to shroud the town in mystery.
Eight-miles distant, Clatskanie records an inch-and-a-half shy of four feet of rain in any given year.
A perfect place is Mist to have attempted escape – in vain as it turned out given his injuries suffered from his 10,000-foot plunge – but ironically to have succeeded, though in death, to escape discovery for nearly five decades in what was to be a metal coffin that died its own death there down in the gully well off the Route 202 that likewise dead-ends in the sparsely populated town of Mist.
One of America’s greatest manhunts ended this past July and, truth be told, won’t be reopened because of this discovery for it was just a picture, and just a story of what might have been.