Rinktum Ditty: An Arizona Logger’s Treat

In the 1917 travel guide Arizona, the Wonderland author George Wharton James writes that the “casual traveler, riding through Arizona on a railway train, oftentimes passes through the most romantic and fascinating regions” whose charms, because they are of a scrubby, subtle variety, tend to go unappreciated. Yet “no one with an eye for beauty could regard the town of Williams in this light,” James maintains. Situated 6780 feet above sea level and covered in vanilla-scented pines, Williams, Arizona enjoys “a wonderful outlook over the great prehistoric inland sea to the very rim of the Grand Canyon.” Indeed, nature “has done much to make the town attractive,” James concludes.

Williams was as industrious as it was beautiful. A great lumber-making town, it supplied trainloads of logs daily for sawmills that turned out over 30 million feet of lumber a year. It was the terminus of the Grand Canyon Railroad and a commercial point on the A. T. & S. F. Railway. A plant west of town processed the virgin wood, making it fit for the largest Southwestern box factory, which operated nearby. Fragrant pines were then transformed into “dry goods, shoe and other packing boxes” that went east, and boxes for the “great meat and fruit packers,” some of which journeyed as far away as South Africa.

Not all of Williams’ pine timber ended up as boxes. Many thousands of feet were sent to “the great mines of Arizona,” and other carloads went to “the Great Lakes States, to be converted into doors and windows, and other factory uses.”

The lumber industry, along with copper mining and ranching, supported many of Williams’ families in modest comfort. The town boasted the “most modern school buildings in the Territory, and an efficient corps of teachers.” Residents enjoyed “most of the modern conveniences, electric lights, water works, and a sewer system.” The telephone service was said to be eminently superior. But in 1911 the bustling town of 2,500 was missing one important amenity: a public library.

The Williams Public Library Association sought to remedy this lack. It published The Arizona Cookbook, the proceeds from which were to go to constructing and maintaining a public library. Town residents and other supporters of the initiative contributed hundreds of tasty, economical recipes. With the help of The Arizona Cookbook one can whip up a “sheep or cow camp menu,” “a lunch basket for the Arizona cowboy,” or something more simple like this recipe, submitted by a sympathetic Coloradan, for “Rinktum Ditty.” Serve it over French bread or, as the contributor suggests, salted crackers.

Rinktum Ditty

Two tablespoons butter (melt in pan), one cup tomato soup (add to butter), one-fourth teaspoon soda, one cup cream, one-half pound American cheese. Have cheese well melted with other mixture, add three well beaten eggs, season with pepper, salt and paprika. Serve on salt crackers. — Miss Leatto Thompson, Los Annmas, Colo.

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