Author Archives: Ted Balk

Ted Balk hails from the heart of South Carolina’s Sand Hill country. Brought up on a Clemson University agricultural experiment station, he and his four siblings had the run of 3,000 acres of Carolina farm and woodland (visited every two weeks by The Barnwell County Library’s Bookmobile), but also spent time in Augusta, Georgia, the midland-South’s closest approximation to a city. After high school, Balk received an appointment to the US Naval Academy, but the affair was short-lived. Next, leaving an unedifying job working third shift in a local textile mill, Balk volunteered for duty in Viet Nam, “to save some other poor son of a bitch from getting his Greetings letter” and because “there was a war on, and Southern boys weren’t going to miss out on the fun.” Some fun! Following a revelatory year in ‘Nam, Balk served another year in Germany and then got out of the Army post haste, all the illusions of his youth shattered. He hastily decamped to Flemish Belgium, began growing serious head and beard hair, and landed at The World Commune, where as wildly multi-cultural a group of hippies as could then be found farmed organically, ran a vegetarian restaurant, and studied Eastern spirituality while consuming great quantities of Greek wine and Belgian beer. “Called home” again by his Southern family, Balk finally settled down Stateside and got a degree in Civil Engineering at Clemson University. Following 33 years of working on various engineering projects (Read: cleaning up after others so we could all go on voraciously consuming resources and making rich people richer), Balk retired near his beloved Clemson. His latest studies have led him into the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, as interpreted by B.K.S. Iyengar but, when not on a Yoga mat, he may be found, most days, at or near Clemson’s Esso Club. Beer, Yoga and story-telling are the current Balk trifecta. Author Photo: Josh Norris of; Watercolor of The Esso Club available from

William A Balk, Sr.’s “Wartime Experiences of a Colorblind Navy Pilot—6”

“We’ve been hit.”—By William A. Balk, Sr. Dispatches from The Esso Club By Ted Balk Note by Ted Balk: This sixth installment of my late father’s memoir continues the saga of his wartime experiences as a Navy pilot. Previously published installments on Weekly Hubris are: Installment 1—Foreword & Preface;Installment 2—Shakedown Cruise to Guadalcanal; Installment 3—Invasion […]

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William A Balk, Sr.’s “Wartime Experiences of a Colorblind Navy Pilot—5”

“When I checked our fuel I realized I had another problem. We usually had enough fuel for about 30 minutes extra flying time after a long-range mission. I knew I was going to be at least 20 minutes late and that I would have to wait for them to re-spot the planes, turn the whole […]

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William A. Balk, Sr.’s “Wartime Experiences of a Colorblind Navy Pilot—4”

“When I got down to 1,000 feet, I decided we’d had about enough, so I fired the rockets at God-knows-what target, then headed for the deck with the throttle wide open. These Avengers were redlined at about 300 knots, but I’m sure we exceeded that as we streaked across that town at tree level. In […]

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William A Balk, Sr.’s “Wartime Experiences of a Colorblind Navy Pilot—3”

“Us: ‘Snakeoil, this is Famous 87, do you read me?’ Snakeoil: ‘Roger, Famous, this is Snakeoil. Are you the plane with the diamond on the tail?’ Us: ‘Roger, that’s us. What can we do for you?’ Snakeoil: ‘We’re pinned down by a bunch of Japs about 50 feet in front of us. I just put […]

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William A Balk, Sr.’s “Wartime Experiences of a Colorblind Navy Pilot—2”

“When we were finished for the night, we got ready to fly back to Pearl Harbor. We usually had more pilots than planes and took turns piloting, which meant some had to ride as passengers back to Pearl. That was when we discovered that Jack Chrystal was missing.”—By William A. Balk, Sr. Dispatches from The Esso […]

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William A Balk, Sr.’s “Wartime Experiences of a Colorblind Navy Pilot—1”

“Just before I was slated to start the eye exams, Quinton Lumpkin appeared on the scene and motioned for me to follow him. He found an empty room, then told me he had borrowed the colorblindness tests for a few minutes so that I could memorize the correct numbers on them and not make any […]

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Pig Whisperer for A Wedding Day: BBQ for 250

“This certainly would not be my first pig-cooking, but pit-mastering for this particular couple demanded that I produce the best results possible. I wanted to honor my friends, of course, but there was also the added incentive that I would be serving some people whom I knew to be top notch barbecuers, and others who […]

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The Cotton Bale & The 20s Chevy: A Story from My Father

“We started with an outhouse in the yard and a hand pump in the kitchen. The contractor installed indoor plumbing, but the house was still drafty and we had a single wood stove for heat. In the winter, there might be ice in the toilet bowl in the morning and the exposed copper pipes under […]

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