Water Closet for 1-17-14 Fisherman’s Call

In the late 1930s, just up the road and north along the coast from the Ipswich River a remarkable human was born.  We know of him in a roundabout way because he went to Newburyport High School with the old Closeteer’s sisters from Salisbury across the Merrimack.  A handsome lively lad, he was much admired by the girls.

Last summer, over a half century after those high school years, a slim bearded man stopped at the Old Closeteer’s daughter’s house, the one in Salisbury the Closeteer had grown up in.  William “Billy” Packer asked for the Closeteer who had taken him rowing in a dory about 20 years ago on the Merrimack River.  Not there, he visited with daughter Mika and her nine year old son Django.  He left them a book for the Closeteer that he had written entitled Fisherman’s Call1.  In the stranger’s presence both Mika and Django had comfortable feelings they cannot clearly describe.   He was friendly and soft spoken.  The Closeteer remembers him as being so during their time rowing together.

After that row, the Closeteer received a few long letters from Packer espousing a philosophy derived from his study of Black Elk Speaks,2 a popular book in hippy times, and from the Bible.  At about 40 Packer “saw the light” and wanted all others to see it too.  He stopped killing fish in a profession he was famous for and became an environmentalist.  His teachings, in brief pamphlets at first, were given out by the thousands from Oregon to Israel.  In 2011 he published Fisherman’s Call, a 170 page book.  Packer, very smart, writes well and clearly.  Bill Plante, a long time writer for the Newburyport News who knew Packer; the old Closeteer, his wife, and sister are among the readers who found the book interesting.3 Despite Packer’s tendency to use the words ”truth” and “I” too frequently, his searches for the truth in wild and lonely places impress.  More interesting though are his accounts of fishing for fish rather than for truth, or for people to join his cause.  By catch along the way have been four wives who left him, but are still fond friends4.  Actually he left them first while on long spiritual searches.

Black Elk, another dreamer-searcher, was a Lakota, Sioux, who, while ill at the age of nine had life changing visions.  In old age he told them to Nebraskan poet John G. Neihart who wrote them English.  The barest essentials of the interpretations of these dreams by Neihart, Packer and others are that humans should “live well” with fellow plants, animals and their habitats.  “Live well” for them, as live well for ourselves.  Packer wisely understands that both these essentials are tied together, a theme of the Water Closet these past eight years and by the Middleton Stream Team for seventeen.  He speaks repeatedly of Nature’s Government and Natures Law which translates to us as evolution and the laws of science without man’s manipulation and exploitation.   We in the Closet vaguely say Mother Nature.  Packer’s Mother Nature is also the Judeo-Christian God.  He says the creation is the creator and vice versa.  A very profound pronouncement, a concept easily used by us lukewarm environmentalists. Far from lukewarm, Packer went to jail for a little while for actively protecting California’s giant red woods.

Packer is a preacher, teacher and guru for the cause he has given almost half of his life to.  Alas, his important book lacked a good editor.  Repetition is excessive.  For the faithful in most religions, repetition in prayer is a tried and true method, so maybe we shouldn’t be picky.  Does repetition sometimes carry people well beyond the truth?  It certainly seems to with many zealots who kill in the name of God.  No worry of that with Billy Packer.  Many friends in Newburyport and beyond know him as a gentle and compassionate man.  The words compassion and love are words he uses over and over, words hard to find fault with.  Packer’s book is worth reading.  Some churches that hadn’t been much concerned with the environment are now moving in that direction.  Packer moved dramatically and quickly 35 years or so ago.  Previously in the 70s and 80s he proudly flew red flags each announcing catches of blue fin tuna as he entered the Merrimack and continued up river to the fishing piers of Newburyport.  He harpooned more of the great beauties than others.  In the future we may see him more quietly flying people-catch-green-flags.

We recommend Fisherman’s Call to you.  Even if you are not into words like amazing, spirit, love, compassion, and God used freely you’ll still like the fishing portions and the realization that a very unusual and dedicated man raised in our area now embraces the world.  He wants to save it from our species.  He wants us to “adore” God’s creation through evolution, as he does.

As of this writing we have not been able to find the author. He may be on another lonely quest.  The last hint we have points to Washington State.  We like to think Billy is praying while perched on the edge of an old growth forest he is trying to save from loggers.


1  Packer, William “Billy”, Fisherman’s Call (iUniverse, Inc., Bloomington , IN) 2011

2  Black Elk Speaks was first published in 1932 and several times since.  The latest premier edition was by SUNY Press, Albany NY, in 2008.  The old man’s words were translated by his son to poet John G, Neihart in 1931.

3  Visit the internet for reviews of Fisherman’s Call and more information about the author.

4  A recent photo on page 114 of Fisherman’s Call shows four gray haired ladies who were his wives (one at a time) and Packer; all five appeared relaxed and smiling.




Precipitation Data* for Month of: Oct Nov Dec Jan
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.40 4.55 4.12 3.40
 2013 – 14  Central Watershed Actual 1.10 3.35 5.30 2.80 as of 1/14**

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):

For Jan 14, 2014:  Normal . . . 44 CFS           Current Rate . . . 45 CFS


*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru Dec. Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.

**Updated Jan precipitation data is from MST gage.

THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584