LOWNDES, MO (KFVS) - Sam A. Baker, the one who lives in Lowndes now, not the former governor of Missouri, decided music was has thing when he was a kid.
"I asked my mom to get me a guitar. She did. I'm not sure if she ordered it from Sears or Montgomery Ward," Sam recalled.
He only remembers learning to play it and just about every other instrument. By the time he left Lowndes to serve his country, Sam was an accomplished musician.
The Baker family; mom, dad and seven siblings, lived in a small house across the road from the Lowndes cemetery. Sam remembers crossing the field to the old schoolhouse every morning where he and kids from around Lowndes attended school.
"It had three rooms," he said. "First through eighth grade was here. And we had three teachers."
He remembers some students arriving by wagon.
"Those were simpler times," Sam added wistfully.
The old school, now a private residence, sits directly behind where Sam and his family live today.
When Sam was 19 he joined the Army and shipped out to Japan during the Korean War. Once in Japan Sam met the woman who would become his first wife, Michiko, and who would bear him eight children.
"She was a good woman. I worked as a trucker driver and she stayed home and took care of the kids," Sam remembered.
Life was going along just fine until Michiko was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"At first she did pretty good," he said. "But then it got in her liver and she got worse and she didn't make it."
Michiko was just 51 years old. Although some of the kids were grown, Sam still had three at home. With his family's help, he worked and raised his children.
After living in Greenville for years, Sam decided to move back to his hometown of Lowndes. He bought an earthen home for no particular reason other than it was for sale. He says he doesn't worry about tornadoes since his roof is level with the ground. Christmas lights still sway in the wind, hanging from the home's gutters. At one point Sam would put them up and take them down routinely. Not so much anymore.
"I may take them down this year but I doubt it," Sam said with a hearty laugh.
Sam made a living for many years as an over the road truck driver. He also played guitar at clubs and bars to earn extra money to support his family. However, as he approached his fifties, Sam developed heart problems. Open heart surgery and nine stents put Sam on disability. At age 50, he would never work again.
He was fortunate enough to meet a woman named Mary who would become his second wife. She teaches special education at Greenville Schools and wasn't there the day we dropped in, though their daughter, Sam's ninth child, Sharon, was. So was Sharon's daughter, Ellie. A darling little one year old who keeps Sam and everyone else on the move.
These days the only driving Sam does is to Greenville or Poplar Bluff or perhaps Cape Girardeau to shop or visit friends. Most of the time you'll find him, as we did, at home. He has a routine of watching his favorite shows and then you might catch him outside tending to Buddy the horse or Duke the rather large, white German shepherd that patrols the property.
He still plays the guitar, though not at clubs and bars anymore. He saves his talent for his church where his wife and Sharon sing with him.
As far as Lowndes goes, Sam plans on staying, at least for now.
"It's a nice place," he said. "It's quiet. No one bothers you here. It's home."
Home for most of his 80 years. Besides, if he moves, he'd have to take down those Christmas lights.