David Donald (Don) Ballou was born October 12, 1898. He was the eighth child of Clarence Jefferson and Mary Louise (Mills) Ballou. His family resided at a farm 1½ mile north of Delphos, Ottawa County, Kansas. He was reared in Delphos and attended school in and around Delphos.

Don once said that he took a step toward his ultimate career when he wrote an article about the farm crops for the Delphos Republican. His parents later enrolled him in a correspondence school for newspaper illustration. He later attended Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, and in 1922, he left school to start his job as a reporter for the Salina Daily Union. That same year, he married his love, Elsie Mae Oliver. In later years, he reported for the Kansas City Kansan, where he remained for forty-five years.

As an extension of his passion for Kansas and its history, he assumed the challenge of building the Pike Trail Marker between 1962 and 1964. Although it required many round trips from Kansas City to Delphos and filled many of his vacations, Don described the effort as, "most satisfying" and "something to contemplate." The marker still stands today and shows the route taken through the Delphos area by Captain Zebulon Montgomery Pike and his exploring party during his 1806 expedition.