Shining Seas and Amber Waves

Gisborne Australia sea

The beaches of Australia. Photo courtesy of Prue Batten.


In my glee of FINALLY finishing the fall harvest, I indulged in some wannabe writing.  Yep, I’m hallucinating. So humor me just this once? ¡Por favor!

I have a friend who lives in Tasmania. Prue Batten. She is a sure enough author.  Published and everything.  I’ve read five of her novels and she’s working on #6. I. Can’t. Wait. I think. You never know what these flighty author-types will do with their main characters. I worry about it a lot.

In the meantime, I messed around with an excerpt from her last book, Gisborne: Book of Knights.

As I read Prue Batten’s “neg and whirlpool” scene from Gisborne: Book of Knights in her September 21 blog post, “Knowing the Ropes”, the thought whirled thru my mind of how similar the seas she described so aptly are to the huge fields of wheat, corn and milo that grace our countryside here on the plains.


Wheat Harvest 2013

How many times have I watched the “amber waves of grain” dance before my eyes, so reminiscent of the waves of the Pacific we saw in Hawaii? I remember the first time I saw a wheat field. It was the summer of 1969 and Big Boss and his family had invited me up north to visit the farm. He was anxious to show me the “place”!  We piled into the pickup and off we trundled down a dusty, non-graveled road to inspect fields and livestock.

Imagine my astonishment as we first drove to a corn field that was an entire quarter of ground? Not 40 acres like my granddad’s farm!  

Then came the breathtaking wheat fields. Picture this: Wheat as far as you can see. And not much else. Even when the wheat is opposed to amber 🙂 …it’s beautiful as it endlessly sways and dances in the hot plains wind.

So when I read Prue’s account of the 12th century seas in Gisborne: Book of Knights, I thought how alike the wheat and corn fields and the seas are. Both have unknown creatures lurking beneath the surface…strange marine creatures under the seas…and horrible terrors underneath all that wheat. The kind that have fangs. The kind that can bite.

Storms can rip seas and fields apart. Or at least the structures that might be navigating the oceans. Inclement weather can wreak havoc on a wheat field so fast your head would spin and sink a sea-faring vessel pronto.

And did you know that you can drown in a corn field? Well, not exactly drown, but close. You can get lost in these huge corn fields in the heat, get disoriented and smother from lack of oxygen. Especially small children.

Prue’s scene from Gisborne: Book of Knights featuring her heroine, Ysabel sailing the wild seas in search of her true love, Gisborne was so close to my experiences of riding in a combine, tractor or cutter that I couldn’t believe it. Only I had my true love driving me!!!  🙂


Join me as I travel back to the 12th century seas with Ysabel…and then take you home with me to the farm in Kansas!

“Hut, hut,’ went the chant and my heart beat with the command. The nef slid over the water as if the sea were a piece of D’Aumiers silk. But slowly Sicily and the coast of the mainland began to enclose us – rocky escarpments falling into the water, the sea itself funnelling with increasing strength through the strait.

My version: “Whirrr,” went the chant of the combine as the stout man took hold of the steering wheel. The machinery slid over the land as if the field were a piece of corn silk. But slowly the barns and hills began to fade…rocky roads fading into the landscape, the field and its bounty flowing with increasing strength through the combine header.

It was possible to feel the pull and bite of the two angry mistresses now, the hull buffeting, and I stood, threading my hands through Eli’s rope, tying myself to the solidity of the spar. Courage was not as encompassing as I would have Davey believe as the water seemed blacker than Hades, circles flattening out as we approached, swirling on either side of us – whirlpools that might be our downfall.

My version: It was possible to feel the pull and bite of the threshing machine as we rocked and swayed through the field. I sat in the solidity of the co-pilot seat, holding on for dear life, knowing that this machine could grind me up in a few seconds along with the wheat. I didn’t dare let on that my courage was failing as I climbed the steep ladder up to the cab. One slip and…it could be my downfall!!

Literally. I hated the way they bit and grabbed, pulling the keel this way and that. I could imagine the ‘nef’ crying out as it almost bent in two.

My version: The sway of the machinery rocked us back and forth, pulling us this way and that. I could almost hear the combine creaking and groaning as it moved with the land.

Hut, hut!’ Davey kept that insistent rhythm but the rowers barely needed it as they dug deep, keeping the vessel on a straight course, neither to right nor left, defying the crazed tug of the tides.
‘Hut, hut!’ The water ran slightly roughened, but nothing like the fierceness of what fought beneath us as the two tides bullied each other and us.”

“Hold on!” Big Boss warned me as the combine adeptly took to the field while he kept the machine on a straight course, defying the warnings of his sons to “keep it straight, Dad”. Thank goodness for GPS! The field slightly roughened, but nothing like the fierceness of what fought beneath us as the rocky ridges of the soil threw us around.

The boat groaned but the crew would have none of it and with each pull, they yelled ‘Hyar! Hyar!’ Almost as though they were whipping a horse through a maelstrom. If I had any doubts about their courage, their sheer physical power, it was put to rest as the rope bit into my palms, the boat trying to swing and me like a piece of flotsam. I longed to hunker down, to shut my eyes, but that was surely the coward’s way and if these men had to row with their backs to their enemy, then the least I could do was keep my gaze up front watching the water, and turning every now and then to gain reassurance from their grit.

My version: The combine rattled and squealed but Big Boss kept at it. It reminded him of the days when his grandfather harvested with a horse-drawn cutter. He had confidence in his equipment. After all, his machinist had spent half the summer preparing it for another year of service. It was fine tuned, oiled and sharpened. But still….the sheer, raw power of such a gargantuan machine was disturbing. Surely, though, I could ride with Big Boss for 15 minutes or so. Being tossed about like marble on a sidewalk was nothing compared to reining in this metal monster! I glanced at Big Boss as he herded the massive machine through those amber waves. Yes, he was confident. After all, he had been driving a combine since he was 5.

‘Watch it! Pull, men!’ The note in Davey’s voice was shrill and I held my breath as I saw an ugly whirlpool in the middle of our course. The oars dug, the boat slewed, tipping to the larboard side, the water rushing over the sides.’

Gisborne: Book of Knights

My version: “Dad! We’ve got a truck down!” The son of Big Boss had called with not so welcome news that would indeed slow the day down. I held my breath as I saw the truck limping out of the field. That meant all available drivers had pick up the slack for wheat harvest doesn’t wait for the faint of heart. When the wheat is ready, it’s ready.

Big Boss: Book of Harvest 🙂

Can’t you almost smell the sea reading Prue’s words?

With apologies to the masterful Prue Batten, who agreed to let me butcher her excellent description of Ysabel’s nautical excursion! (You know, this writing business is a breeze! Especially if you have a real author to copy. My English teacher would be so proud!)

Now go check Prue’s books out HERE!!!  It’s fall and snow is just around the corner. You will need some good reading to curl up with beside the fire!

PS You might be asking, “WHO is Gisborne?”  He was the bad guy on BBC’s Robin Hood.  You know.  The tall, dark and handsome one. Who inspired the Gisborne character in Prue’s books.

Photo courtesy of BBC Robin Hood.

Photo courtesy of BBC Robin Hood.

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4 Responses to Shining Seas and Amber Waves

  1. prue batten says:

    A perfect comparison and a real compliment. Cheers Debbie and thank you!


  2. prue batten says:

    PS: we are lamb-marking this week and tomorrow I begin a bit of a cook-up. First things? Kansas Cowgirl Double choc chip cookies!


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