2498: Forest Walk

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Forest Walk
The only other person to walk by was a linguist back in the 80s, but she just spent a while dissecting the phrase 'help me down' before getting distracted by a squirrel and wandering off.
Title text: The only other person to walk by was a linguist back in the 80s, but she just spent a while dissecting the phrase 'help me down' before getting distracted by a squirrel and wandering off.


Megan is walking through a wide landscape with Beret Guy who owns a big part of it. Megan is surprised that he owns such a big property, however, Beret Guy is known for his inexplicable businesses such as in 1493: Meeting and from 1032: Networking; we know he probably has enough resources to be able to buy it. Alternatively, he might have simply inherited it from his mom (see 502: Dark Flow), or may not understand the concept of owning it. Nevertheless, he walks here every day, and from the context of the comic, it seems pretty much no one else comes here.

They meet a rather disheveled-looking bearded man hanging from a parachute caught in a tree. The man shakes a stick at them and demands to be helped down to the ground. Beret Guy simply addresses him as "Mister Cooper" and asks if he promises to return the money he took. The man angrily refuses, and Beret Guy casually says he'll see him again tomorrow, suggesting that this conversation has become a daily routine. Megan asks if the man was D. B. Cooper, which Beret Guy immediately confirms. He then comments on an owl nest as another bit of "neat stuff" found on his land, suggesting that he finds Cooper's presence to be just another mildly interesting part of this land.

D. B. Cooper is the identity given to a man who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft in 1971. He collected a $200,000 ransom (equivalent to $1,250,000 in 2020) and famously donned a parachute and jumped from the plane over the state of Washington. He was never seen or heard from again. Despite lengthy FBI investigations and nationwide publicity, the hijacker was never identified. A few thousand dollars of the ransom money was found in a river, nearly 10 years after the hijacking, but the remainder has never been recovered. The only things known about him are a police composite drawing and the name "Dan Cooper", under which he had purchased his airline ticket (he was called "D.B." as a result of a miscommunication with the media, and the name stuck).

The high-profile case followed by the never-solved mystery has led to a massive amount of speculation as to his identity, background, and what became of him. Many consider the most likely scenario to be that he didn't survive the parachute jump, and simply crashed somewhere that his body was never found. Others imagine that he escaped with the money and simply managed to evade capture. The comic is insinuating that, after leaping from the plane, he got entangled in a tree in Beret Guy's land and has been there ever since.

Uncanny situations are nothing new to Beret Guy since he possesses many strange powers. Hence, the concept of a famous criminal hanging from a tree for nearly 50 years doesn't seem any more interesting to him than an owl's nest. In keeping with the typical bizarre-ness of Beret Guy's life, it isn't explained how a man could survive for half a century hanging from a tree, why he'd choose to remain trapped there for his entire life rather than return money that he's in no position to spend, or why Beret Guy wouldn't simply report his whereabouts to the police. All of these are simply accepted as unremarkable realities of life, for him. Randall already referenced D. B. Cooper a few times before this comic.

The title text may refer to the linguist from 2390: Linguists who is more interested in the linguistic nuances that people use than in actually responding to their call for assistance. It is not known how many others have walked through Beret Guy's land, in the interim, or whether it is their nature or the general aura from Beret Guy, but the linguist did not much more than ponder the phrase "help me down". Megan also seems in no particular hurry to intervene.


[Megan and Beret Guy are walking through a landscape with spread-out trees and grass and puddles on the ground.]
Megan: Wow, this is all yours?
Beret Guy: Yeah! All the way back to the river!
Beret Guy: I walk here every day.
[Megan still walks towards Beret Guy who has now stopped and is looking up while speaking to a man hanging in a tree in front of them. The man has long wild hair and a large beard. He hangs from his parachute which has been folded around a large branch sticking out from beneath the top of the tree. He is holding a long stick of some sort, seemingly attempting to threaten Beret Guy, as the stick and his legs are vibrating as indicated with small lines.]
Beret Guy: Morning, Mister Cooper!
Cooper: You help me down this instant!
[Pan down to show only Beret Guy and nothing else. Cooper replies from off-panel from the top corner.]
Beret Guy: Do you promise to give back all the money you took?
Cooper [off-panel]: Never!
Beret Guy: Okay! See you tomorrow!
[Megan and Beret Guy continue walking through the landscape with three small trees behind them, as well as grass, rocks, and a small puddle. Megan looks back over her shoulder towards where Cooper is hanging.]
Megan: Was that D.B. Cooper?
Beret Guy: Yeah, and up ahead there's an owl nest!
Beret Guy: There's so much neat stuff here.

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Have just added a transcript. Hope I did good! :) -Lance ( 02:40, 5 August 2021 (UTC))

You did good, Lance. *pats head* 18:06, 5 August 2021 (UTC)

Wonder what Beret Guy would do if Cooper said, "I don't have it any more," since some of the money was discovered, badly deteriorated and partially buried, along the banks of the Columbia River back in 1980, as verified by serial numbers on the found currency.  Given the absence of any other evidence, it was assumed that the hijacker had gotten separated from the money either during or right after the jump, the found currency had been deposited as flotsam at its discovery point through the actions of the river itself, and the rest of the money was still somewhere in the Pacific Northwest awaiting similar discovery, RAGBRAIvet (talk) 04:23, 5 August 2021 (UTC)

If it can be considered that the comic is a reference to random walk (in a forest), can it also be considered a reference to random forests ? 07:14, 5 August 2021 (UTC)

I don't get why the comic is supposed to be a reference to random walks or to random forests. Nothing points to that. Real forests exists, and people walk in them. The only peculiarity of this particular forest is that D.B. Cooper hangs in one of its trees. -- 08:20, 5 August 2021 (UTC)

I feel like there should be a D.B. Cooper category at this point. -- 07:51, 5 August 2021 (UTC)

Hey there, I think the alt text is also a reference to https://xkcd.com/2390/ ? Kind regards :) 08:13, 5 August 2021 (UTC)

Typo: "he might have simply inherited it form his mom". -- 12:40, 5 August 2021 (UTC)

Done, now. I'd seen it, but apparently missed it, in preparing for my first big corrective edit of the day (little tyops, a lot less awful than ones I have previously left for others to correct). Or maybe I thought I should leave it suspended from the tree until some other issue had been resolved. :P 12:53, 5 August 2021 (UTC)

Not to question the artistic representation, but rather than Forest (tree canopy and dense undergrowth), I'd say that was more Woodland Savanna (individual tree growth smattered around grass/shrubland at most). Or maybe we just can't properly see the woods for the trees... (Or the action is set at the edge of a clearing, of course!) 13:32, 5 August 2021 (UTC)

It's Southwest Washington, where Pyroculture practiced over centuries changed the nature of the forests. Your average forest, until recently when fire suppression came in, had very little undergrowth, and sometimes whole fields of Camas Lilly or Tarweed or other food plants valued by the Yakima.Seebert (talk) 19:43, 5 August 2021 (UTC)
Savanna (savannah? - I always thought it had that spelling, but too lazy to check my convictions) is pretty much the product of pyroculture, though not of course the only one. Intensity and accompanying herbiculture/arboriculture being practiced could make some differences, and climate too (NW US is famously damp most of the time, so may be hard to overburn in primitive anthropogenic fire-settings). But even without a modern parafoil-type chute there's likely an attempt to aim for landing in a clearing (with a basic back-bleeding canopy and shifting weight/tugging the harnessed bundles of lines asymetrically used to activelychange heading) only to over-/under-shoot the landing slightlty and apparently snag upon a tree. That might indicate a localalised area of ground more close to the relative sparseness of the illustration. 03:49, 10 August 2021 (UTC)

Doesn't it seem likely, that Beret Guy's trees have soup outlets on them? Like his Business does? (Or, maybe Ghosts (like the business))

'You help me down this instant!' is not an "unlikely combination of words" or an unusual phrase. I'm not sure if it is regional, but as a native US English speaker, this is a completely normal wording to use if you are frustrated and insisting that someone do something, especially someone much younger, so perhaps it is meant to further indicate the man's age. As an example, a parent might say to their unruly child who is refusing to do their chores, "young man, you clean your room this instant!" (or "right this instant") It can also be used playfully: you are taking a walk along a river with some friends, when one of them suddenly playfully splashes water on you and takes off running (to avoid retaliation) and you run after them shouting "I'm going to get you for that! You get back here right this instant!" 15:36, 5 August 2021 (UTC)

I had the same reaction to both the title text and the explanation (although I believe it refers to the "help me down" part and not the "this instant" part). Either way, neither part of the phrase nor the entire phrase seems unlikely or unusual. I actually first came to this page to see if I was missing a reference in the title text, but it appears Randall just finds our dialectic somewhat strange. 16:28, 5 August 2021 (UTC)
IANALinguist, but I took it that "Help me down" is a (potentially, enough to be linguistically nerdsniped upon) ambiguous. 'Down' as a verb is strange, maybe ("to down, I wish you to help me") which might even be more feather-based in regards to the action conveyed. Or "lower the amount of help you shall grant me". Or even "(I) require assistance (for) I (am) feeling a certain amount of ennui". And "I wish to fall" is obviously not meant... Or is it? Some people would wish to consider this... 19:06, 5 August 2021 (UTC)
It was I who added that part about the "unlikely combination of words". Today I have checked it on https://www.english-corpora.org/coca/ (where you have to annoyingly register with your real email address as throwaway mails are effectively blocked). Expression 'right know' has 151 795 results. 'this instant' has only 558 including phrases such as:
"Get the fuck out of my office this instant." from Silicon Valley (2017 TV Series, episode The Keenan Vortex);
"Shh. Stop that this instant! 'Stop that this instant.' You sound like my teacher." Justice League Action (2016, Galaxy Jest);
"Put those drapes down this instant. ... I will grab a spatula and put you Over my knee this instant! - You sound like mommy." The Haunted Hathaways (2014, Haunted Viking);
"Applebloom! You come back here right this instant! (blustering)" My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (2010, Bridle Gossip).
There were also some result from spoken word, newspapers and blogs but they were not relevant. In conclusion, 'this instant' is much less frequent than more common 'right know', however, it is used. On the other hand, it is infrequent enough that characters in TV series comment on how out of place that phrase sounds. I have deleted my explanation, feel free to undo the deletion, rewrite the explanation or leave it as it is now.
To clarify, I have deleted this part of explanation: As mentioned in 1400: D.B. Cooper, Cooper was also known for ambiguous, possibly affected speaking style and use of unusual phrases such as 'negotiable American currency', he seems to hold to this habit and instead of much more common 'Help me right now!' or 'Put me down immediately!' he used rather unlikely combination of words 'You help me down this instant!'. CryptoNut1269 (talk) 11:06, 6 August 2021 (UTC)
I assume you mean "right now" not "right know". 01:05, 7 August 2021 (UTC)Pat
My input: the "this instant" bit is not even mentioned as the focus of the linguist's attention, so I'd not consider that important. D.B. may also have only started to say that since the prior visitor, or only when directly addressing BG (with the long history of ignoring/refusing him). "Help me down" is an interesting construct in and of itself, as mentioned. But I could not tell you in what ways. 14:39, 6 August 2021 (UTC)
Just FYI: I accidentally noticed that 1860: Communicating has this caption: [...] “which explains why you haven't been able to convince anyone to help you down from that wall.” — Yosei (talk) 08:13, 20 August 2021 (UTC)

Anyone else think that D.B. Cooper in this comic looks a bit like Don Quixote from alternate energy revolution? --4D4850 (talk) 02:13, 6 August 2021 (UTC)

Kind of, but when you looked closer at 556: Alternative Energy Revolution Don Quixote's beard is definitely better groomed and his hair is trimmed. I would rather compare this Cooper with the guy form 725: Literally. CryptoNut1269 (talk) 11:06, 6 August 2021 (UTC)
<humor> What if literally guy is alternate universe D.B. Cooper? </humor> Seriously speaking though, it seems the similarity is just because there aren't many different ways to draw stick figures. --4D4850 (talk) 19:41, 6 August 2021 (UTC)

Where's the page for yesterday's 2499:Abandonment Function? I know it was published late (after midnight last night), but is that a reason not to explain it? Barmar (talk) 12:54, 7 August 2021 (UTC)

Sometimes DGBRTBot (however it's capitalised, etc, I forget) needs a nudge. It's a long long time since I last saw that need so seriously doing, so can't remember how difficult it was when everyone was last complaining about it... I'm sure others are checking that, but I'll poke around to see if it's possible to poke as an AnonIP too... 17:55, 7 August 2021 (UTC)
I think my desire to archive the comic along with everything else in case the universe ends is simplifying down to just pasting a link in here: https://xkcd.com/2499/ . Presently accessible for me on xkcd.com . Has a single panel showing a drone asking to be charged by an owner it gifts itself to. Somewhat triggering around human slavery. Caption describes an abandonment function that provides for unwanted drones to find new owners. Reminds of discarded autonomous robots. archive.org will be crawling it soon, hopefully before the universe ends, but I wrote a small summary here. 20:04, 7 August 2021 (UTC)
commentary: this probably actually works to give drones away, comparable to leaving furniture by the side of the street. 20:06, 7 August 2021 (UTC)
The way to get rid of things by the side of the street is not to have a "free to a good home" sign, but to make it actually tempting to just take it. Many a broken fridge has been given a price-tag and "see owner" label and ended up (even less responsibly) taken away by someone who thinks that even if that price is a steal, they'll happily do their own stealing. (Anyway, the article now exists, after a fashion.) 23:07, 7 August 2021 (UTC)

If D. B. Cooper is hanging from his parachute from a tree branch, why are the parachute lines slack? 19:30, 9 August 2021 (UTC)

Some are slack, but a core set (below the bit of the chute-canopy snagged most firmly in the tree-canopy) are taut. Which might be expected, as airflow isn't fairly equally holding all the deployed fabric up, just the bits hooked most upon the highest branches that remain unbroken/unbent after entanglement. The rest of the fabric drapes itself on lower branches and the non-loadbearing chords form basic (or modified by chord/branch interaction) cateneries between the silk and the backpack anchor-point.
Though it could as easily end up being one edge of the 'chute (as seen from a chosen angle) as a saddle-like distribution with a centre (maybe just front or back?) held up and two limbs (of the presumably hemispherical, not aerofoil, style of construction surely typical of the day).
It is of course a fairly trivial sketch of an entangled chute, not a complexly rendered simulation of an idealised draping and suspension-from. But I think I'd have mistrusted an all-taut set of guylines compared with that fairly feasible depiction. YMMV. 03:49, 10 August 2021 (UTC)

This page is on the list of beret guys strange powers. Is there anything here that qualifies as a strange power? Like it’s weird having D.B. Cooper in your yard, but it’s not a power. Should it be removed from the list? --BlackBeret (talk) 23:24, 28 October 2021 (UTC)