“DB Cooper was 43 when we first heard his name.” Is the opening line of a country/folk song written about me. I don’t remember who wrote it but it made me smile when I first heard it. Of course D. B. Cooper is not my real name and never was. I only used it that one day
It was 1971 and I wasn’t 43 years old, like they said. I was 27. It’s not tough to make yourself look a little older. Judicious application of a little salt in your pepper colored hair is really all it took.
I had been down on my luck. My momma had died peacefully at the beginning of November that year. Me, my brother, and my two sisters went back to Nebraska for the funeral. I found the seed money in the pages of a romance novel that had been on the nightstand next to Momma’s bed. I took it, $1,500.00. That was a lot of money in those days.
My brother was executor of the estate so there was no reason for me to hang around after the memorial. A couple days later I went back to Tillamook where I had a stable job at the library; but the pay sucked. I was living in two rooms over “Old” Mrs. Wilson’s garage and I first got to thinking about it when I spotted the temporary hair dye at the pharmacy. I had stopped for a pack of smokes and Virgil was restocking shelves. He had a bunch of hair care products on a cart. On impulse, I bought two boxes of the stuff. The label told me that I would enjoy being a brunette.
I began to formulate a plan. I knew if I ever wanted to get ahead in life I needed to own something. I thought about buildings, houses, things like that. Things that I could charge rent for other people to use. I got some road flares and wire at the auto parts store, banded the flares together with friction tape and tucked some coils of wire in at one end. The whole contraption fit neatly into a briefcase I bought at the Goodwill Store for a dollar and a half.
The day before Thanksgiving I put on the suit that I had bought for Momma’s funeral. I tucked a pair of jeans, a flannel shirt, and a good pair of boot socks into a bag. I put this in the briefcase, along with the road flare gizmo, and drove to Portland.
At the airport, I paid cash for a ticket on Northwest 305 to Seattle. When the flight attendant came by to offer coffee I opened my briefcase and showed her the road flares. She naturally assumed that they were a bomb. I let her believe what she wanted. When the plane landed at Seattle I got $200,000 cash (in $20.00 bills), four parachutes, and food for the crew. I kept the pilots and one flight attendant on board but let everyone else off the plane. I instructed the flight crew to take off and head south.
I had learned the fine art of skydiving when I was in the Army so jumping out of the plane was no big deal. The rear stairs on a 727 made a perfect means of egress. I had the crew in the cockpit and I studied the landscape below, from my window. When I thought the time was right I sent the flight attendant forward and donned the front and back chutes, strapped the money to myself, took off my tie and left it on the seat then I jumped. Turns out I jumped too soon. I was still a long ways from Portland but I changed my clothes, burned my Momma’s funeral suit and buried the briefcase with the flares and parachute. No one’s ever found those.
I had come down less than a mile from the highway so it was easy to get a ride into a nearby town where I used more of my seed money for a motel room and hunkered down for the night and the next day, Thanksgiving. I changed motels on Friday and on Saturday I bought a used car that I drove into Portland. I got back to Tillamook on Saturday afternoon. I had been gone since Wednesday. I told my neighbors that I had been to my sister’s for the Thanksgiving holiday and I resumed my life.
About 6 months later I took $6000.00 and went camping up at Tena Bar. I buried the money real shallow with the hope that it would be found soon. It was kind of a diversion but you know what? It took nine years for anyone to find that money and then they only found $5800.00. I don’t know what happened to the rest, but I don’t really care.
I bought drugs with the other $194,000.00 and that ensured the marked bills were out of the country and I had clean cash. I sold the drugs for twice what I paid for them in a single deal with a tough guy down from Vancouver.
I retired from the library a couple of years ago, when I was 65, and moved down to this trailer park outside Santa Cruz. None of the residents here know that they are writing their rent checks to me. I own a small office building in Sacramento, a strip mall outside Denver and quite a few gas stations along I-10 in Arizona and New Mexico. My life is comfortable and with the exception of that brief time in 1971 it’s been relatively uneventful.
I have no wife, or children. I donate money to Veteran’s causes and organizations. I am always surprised by the hoopla surrounding my exploits. I was just a guy. Just a guy, trying to get ahead.
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