Monday, March 30, 2009

Old Ed

It happened every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun
resembled a giant orange and was starting to dip into the blue ocean.

Old Ed came strolling along the beach to his favorite pier. Clutched
in his bony hand was a bucket of shrimp. Ed walks out to the end of
the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. The
glow of the sun is a golden bronze now.

Everybody's gone, except for a few joggers on the beach. Standing
out on the end of the pier, Ed is alone with his thoughts....and his
bucket of shrimp.

Before long, however, he is no longer alone. Up in the sky a
thousand white dots come screeching and squawking, winging their way
toward that lanky frame standing there on the end of the pier.

Before long, dozens of seagulls have enveloped him, their wings
fluttering and flapping wildly. Ed stands there tossing shrimp to
the hungry birds. As he does, if you listen closely, you can hear
him say with a smile, 'Thank you. Thank you.'
In a few short minutes the bucket is empty. But Ed doesn't leave.

He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another
time and place. Invariably, one of the gulls lands on his
sea-bleached, weather-beaten hat - an old military hat he's been
wearing for years.

When he finally turns around and begins to walk back toward the
beach, a few of the birds hop along the pier with him until he gets
to the stairs, and then they, too, fly away. And old Ed quietly
makes his way down to the end of the beach and on home.

If you were sitting there on the pier with your fishing line in the
water, Ed might seem like 'a funny old duck,' as my dad used to say.
Or, 'a guy that's a sandwich shy of a picnic,' as my kids might say.
To onlookers, he's just another old codger, lost in his own weird
world, feeding the seagulls with a bucket full of shrimp.

To the onlooker, rituals can look either very strange or very empty.
They can seem altogether unimportant ...maybe even a lot of nonsense.

Old folks often do strange things, at least in the eyes of Boomers
and Busters.

Most of them would probably write Old Ed off, down there in Florida.
That's too bad. They'd do well to know him better.

His full name: Eddie Rickenbacker. He was a famous hero back in
World War II. On one of his flying missions across the Pacific, he
and his seven-member crew went down. Miraculously, all of the men
survived, crawled out of their plane, and climbed into a life raft.

Captain Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough
waters of the Pacific. They fought the sun. They fought sharks. Most
of all, they fought hunger. By the eighth day their rations ran out.
No food. No water. They were hundreds of miles from land and no one
knew where they were.

They needed a miracle. That afternoon they had a simple devotional
service and prayed for a miracle. They tried to nap. Eddie leaned
back and pulled his military cap over his nose. Time dragged. All he
could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft.

Suddenly, Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap. It was a

Old Ed would later describe how he sat perfectly still, planning his
next move. With a flash of his hand and a squawk from the gull, he
managed to grab it and wring its neck. He tore the feathers off, and
he and his starving crew made a meal - a very slight meal for eight
men - of it. Then they used the intestines for bait. With it, they
caught fish, which gave them food and more bait......and the cycle
continued. With that simple survival technique, they were able to
endure the rigors of the sea until they were found and rescued.
(after 24 days at sea...)

Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never
forgot the sacrifice of that first lifesaving seagull. And he never
stopped saying, 'Thank you.' That's why almost every Friday night he
would walk to the end of the pier with a bucket full of shrimp and a
heart full of gratitude.

Reference: (Max Lucado, In The Eye of the Storm, pp.221, 225-226)

PS: Eddie was also an Ace in WW I and started Eastern Airlines.

* * * * * * * ** * * * *

Rickenbacker was a pilot during WW I who became an ace and was presented with The Medal of Honor. He went on to be a race car driver, an aviation consultant, and airline executive. He brought together two existing airlines to become Eastern airlines that went on to become a major presence in commercial aviation.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

See our Squidoo Lens, "Tidbits of Military History" at: Tidbits of Military History

Penny and Doug
Penny's Antiques & Wedgwood Pantry

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