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Cornfield Has Crowd In State Of Admiration

Lynda V. Mapes Staff writer

Ben Krause of Snohomish figures West Siders must miss farmland. How else, after all, to explain a crowd of more than 4,000 who showed up to see his cornfield at an open house last week?

But then, his is no ordinary crop. Krause seeded 12 acres double-thick with corn seed in June. Then he cut it into the shape of the state of Washington, and laid out a maze, complete with major state roads and 200 cities.

There’s even a truck stop, right where Ellensburg ought to be. Krause doesn’t like to say how long it took him to make the maze: “People will think I’m crazy.”

But he admits the whole thing had to be cut three times. “Field corn grows fast.”

He mostly used a riding mower, but some parts of the state proved trickier to render. Puget Sound required a brush-cutter pulled behind his tractor.

Krause said he’s enjoyed the wonder people show when they see the field, and their love for visiting a farm. “Everyone has ties to a farm, whether it’s someone in their family or someone they know, and they want to tell you about it. I never get tired of hearing it.”

Friendly, but sloppy

Esther Veltkamp of the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce has helpful advice for tourists visiting the Olympic Game Farm in Sequim: “Take a car you don’t mind getting buffalo slobber on.”

Signs at the game farm give visitors an idea of what to expect as they drive through, feeding bread purchased at the ticket window to the animals.

“STAY IN YOUR CAR,” shouts one sign. “Watch Fingers and Mirrors. Zebras May Bite,” warns another.

It’s a good idea to close the sunroof, too. And make it snappy with that bread.

Watching a steady parade of minivans stuffed with tourists, you have to wonder: Is it really a good idea to turn the American public loose, baited with bread, amid free-range bison?

Apparently. On a recent rare rainy day in Sequim the bread was flying.

Savory stop for truckers

Here in Fife, a small, gritty West Side burg with heavy tractor-trailer traffic, cheap motels and giant billboards, there’s a surprise deep in the heart of cheeseburger country.

This is the land of truck stops and fast food. So who would expect swordfish on a bed of plum and peach salsa with Yukon Gold potatoes, at the Fife City Bar and Grill, no less?

Manager Ray Beckwith and his wife bought the place four years ago when he and Diana Prine, chef at Tacoma’s only four-star restaurant, decided to open their own place.

The grill has been a success ever since. Especially with truckers. Fife is just off I-5 and next door to the Tacoma tide flats, worked by heavy rigs hauling freight.

“People come in and they are so astonished by the food,” Beckwith said. “We had a lot of people tell us when we bought the place, because of the area, oh your food will never fly.

“But it’s the truckers that make it fly, more than anyone else. They are on their CBs telling everyone about our place. There’s finally a place they can eat something other than a cheeseburger.”

He gives the credit to Prine, who makes everything at the restaurant from scratch, even the ice cream.

“It’s fun. I’d never own a restaurant just to make money; it’s not worth it,” Beckwith said. “It has to be unique.”

And it is, from the smoked halibut and corn chowder appetizer, all the way to the last bite of braised lamb shanks on mustard spaetzle with wild mushroom sauce.

, DataTimes MEMO: West Side Stories runs every other week.

West Side Stories runs every other week.

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