Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Story About Always Giving Thanks - Eddie Rickenbacker and the Seagulls

Years ago when I was a kid and just beginning to devour books, I came across a biography of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker and the story of how he and his crew survived a plane crash in the Pacific. I have never forgotten the details of that story, and was thrilled when my friend Matt shared an update.

Read the vignette below, and give thanks!

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A good story to keep life in perspective.


SERE story - Old Eddie

Old Eddie - a neat, inspiring story

This is a true story. I had never heard it before. Hope you appreciate it
and want to pass it along. See verification at the end.

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

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 who'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

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 seagull!

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 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 started Eastern Airlines.

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FYI - for those of you not familiar with the writings of Max Lucado, he consistently tells these kinds of inspiring stories in his books on faith.



1 comment:

Dazza G said...

That's a beautiful narrative on gratitude, and cycles of time, life and remembrance.