Irvine said, “You must have something to occupy your mind and time, for you know the Devil finds mischief for idlers.” I said I’d tackle anything; I’d work all right. A few days later he told me he had a job for me. “Good,” I said. I wondered what kind of work it was. I knew it was not a position of great trust, not a cashier in a bank; that would have to come later on. Well, the job was tending a furnace—get up steam at 5 A. M., do the chores, and make myself generally useful; wages $12.00 per month and my breakfast!
I did not like this for a starter, and I told Mr. Irvine so, and he had to do some tall talking. He finally got angry and said, “Ranney, you started out to let God help you. Well, you know God helps the man that helps himself.” That was so. I had asked God to help me, and here I was at the start refusing to give Him a chance. That clinched it, and I took the first honest job I had had in a good many years. I thank God I did take it, for it was a stepping-stone.
I started in working and was getting on fine, but I always felt I wasn’t getting money enough. I tried in my leisure time for another job, but in all the places I was asked the same question: “Where did you work last?” I could not tell them, “In prison and on the road,” and that queered me. So I stuck to the furnace, was always on time, and was pretty well liked by the people. I had been there about two weeks, and seen the cook every day and smelled the steak, etc., about noontime and at supper, but the cook never asked me if I had a mouth on me. She was a good-natured outspoken Irish woman with a good big heart, and I thought about this time that I’d jolly her a little and get my dinner. One day I came up from the cellar carrying a hod of coal in each hand, and going into the kitchen I tried in every way to attract her attention, but she was busy broiling a steak and never looked around. Finally I got tired and said, “Cook, where will I put this coal?” Well, well, I’ll never forget that moment in years! She turned and looked at me and began, “I want you to understand my name is Mrs. Cunningham. I’m none of your cooks, and if you dare call me cook again while you’re in this house I’ll have you sacked—discharged!” I thought I had been hit with a steam car. I did not answer her back, and she kept right on: “I’m a lady, and I’ll be treated as such or I’ll know why!” I never saw a person so mad in all my life, and I couldn’t understand why. There she was cooking, and yet she was no cook! I thought to myself, “I guess she doesn’t like her job.” I didn’t blame her, because I didn’t like mine either.