The old man and the bucket of shrimp.
The old man and the bucket of shrimp
This is a wonderful story and it is true. You will be pleased that you read
it, and I believe you will pass it on.
It is an important piece of American history.
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 .
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, 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
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 in World War I, and
then he was in WWII. 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 and thirst. 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 or even if they were alive.
Every day across America millions wondered and prayed that Eddie
Rickenbacker might somehow be found alive.
The men adrift 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 on. 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
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 of it – a very slight meal for eight men. 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 life-saving 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
Reference: (Max Lucado, “In The Eye of the Storm”, pp…221, 225-226)
PS: Eddie Rickenbacker was the founder of Eastern Airlines. Before WWI he
was race car driver. In WWI he was a pilot and became America’s first ace.
In WWII he was an instructor and military adviser, and he flew missions with
the combat pilots. Eddie Rickenbacker is a true American hero. And now you
know another story about the trials and sacrifices that brave men have
endured for your freedom.
As you can see, I chose to pass it on. It is a great story that many don’t
know…You’ve got to be careful with old guys, you just never know what they
have done during their lifetime.
Eddie Rickenbacker, a leading fighter ace in World War I and retired chairman of Eastern Air Lines, died in July of 1973.
He was 82 years old. His health had been failing since he suffered a stroke in Miami last October.