My old friend the Devil was in evidence during this hard time in all his pomp and glory. I could hear him say, “You see how God treats you! He don’t care much or He wouldn’t have taken Mary away. What did He do it for? Why, He don’t know you even a little bit. Come, Dan, I’ll be your friend; didn’t we always have a good time together on the Bowery? Go get a ‘ball’; it’ll do you good and make you forget your troubles. You have a good excuse even if any one sees you.” I was tempted, but I said, “Not this time, you old Devil: get behind my back!” People said, “Keep your eye on Ranney; he’s up against it; now he will start to drink and go down and out.”
I’m going to tell you how God came and helped me in my hour of need. It was the day of the funeral, the 17th of March, 1902. The people who were helping had gone home to get ready to attend the service, and my boy and I were left all alone with the dead. We were feeling pretty bad. My boy had lost the best friend he ever had or would have in this world. Some fathers are all right and love their children, but it isn’t like a mother’s love. No wonder he was weeping and feeling badly.
We were walking about the room saying nothing, just thinking, and wondering what would happen next. We happened to meet just at the head of the casket (God’s doing), and stood there as though held by some unseen power, when my boy opens up like this: “Pop, you don’t want me to smoke any cigarettes, do you?” I looked at him, astonished at such a question at this time, but I said, “No, Willie, I don’t want you to smoke and hope you never will.” Then he said, “Father, you don’t want me to drink, do you?” I wondered at these questions, and looked at him with tears in my eyes. I said, “No, Bill, my poor boy, I would rather see you dead and in your coffin beside your poor mother, and know you were going to be buried to-day, than to know you would ever drink or be like your father was. Bill, don’t you ever take the first glass of beer or whiskey! Ask God to keep you from it.”
I wondered what was coming next, but I didn’t have to wait long. The boy said, “The people are watching you and say you won’t come back from the grave without having a drink, and that you won’t be sober a week from now. Pop, trust in the God that saved you ten years ago, won’t you? You know we promised to meet mother. Fool these people and let them see that you are the man and father I love.”
I straightened up, looked at the lad, and out went my hand. We shook hands and I said, “Son, with the help of God I’ll never drink again.” And there at the head of the coffin we knelt and asked God to help us and make us men such as He would have us be; we asked it in the name and for the sake of the Christ who died for us.
That was March 17, 1902, and we have kept the faith up to the present time.
I’ll never forget that prayer. Don’t you think it pays to be on the level with God? If you ask Him to help you He will. Just trust Him and have a little backbone, and you will win out every time. I know now that this experience was God teaching me a lesson and drawing me closer to Him.