From Historical Significance

Barndogglers EP 4: Follow the Redwood to Fargo

The economy of Fargo is booming; there’s no better way to describe it. Nearly 10 people are moving to Fargo every day. With such an influx of people moving to the windy northern plains the demand for homes is great and home construction is thriving.

VanDoren in Studio
Travis VanDoren

In Fargo the Barndogglers have made a new friend of custom home builder, Travis VanDoren owner of VanDoren Building Co. Travis has built a home on the prairie that is truly a work of art. In fact, one might consider Travis more of an artist than a builder. Artists name their paintings; Travis names the homes he builds. This home is named after a prairie grass native to the area called “Dudley’s Rush”. Dudley’s Rush’s story began two years ago as Travis started sketching one late night at his “garage style” studio.

 The initial design was modest. But as planning progressed and construction began, Travis began to realize the home’s potential. His vision of some unique architectural details eventually led Travis to meet the Barndogglers. Travis wanted to use reclaimed barn wood for an entryway accent. This wood would be displayed like a recessed painting with back lighting. The most important thing to Travis was that the wood be authentic, that it had a story to tell, and that it’s history would live on in Dudley’s Rush. Oh, and it should also be beautiful. This is exactly the type of project the Barndogglers enjoy helping the most.

The Klassen Barns Redwood Has a New Home at Dudley's Rush
The Klassen Barns Redwood Has a New Home at Dudley’s Rush

Come “Follow the Redwood to Fargo” as Mike Burke takes Travis out Barndoggling to the Klassen barn where Travis finds the material he needs to create his art. The redwood from the Klassen Barn will live on in Fargo.


Painting of Telephone Line Construction

Introducing Alan Riegler, a new friend of the Barndogglers

By Mike Burke

I never thought some little, blue glass insulator could stir up such passion and would introduce the Barndogglers to some truly amazing people.  I have learned quite a bit about the history of Hemingray insulators from a technical standpoint, from the founding of the company in 1848 to its sale in 1932 to Owens-Illinois Glass Co. Oddly enough, they also manufactured gold fish bowls. It’s all there on the Internet with just a little digging… or “doggling.”      The truly amazing discovery from the Hemingray research was not about a product, but about an artist named Alan Riegler. Ben our producer, partner and an all around great Barndoggler came across a painting of a lineman while producing our latest video on the history of glass insulators. Ben called Alan to ask for permission to use his painting in our video.

Alan Rigler donating one of his paintings to the N.I.A in 2006
Alan Rigler donating one of his paintings to the N.I.A in 2006

It turns out the artist was a former lineman himself, retired from Pacific Bell Co. Ben was amazed at the artist’s story and set up a phone call between the artist and me. I called at the scheduled time and was rewarded with one of the best two hour phone calls of my life.

 Alan Riegler passed along many technical details regarding the history of telegraph wire, the expansion of communication lines across the whole country, and the dangers of working on open wire with somewhat shaky equipment. Most of his work took place in the deserts of California. That is the technical end. But on a personal level I discovered Alan Riegler is the epitome of what makes America great.

Tocopa Hot Springs, Death Valley, Early 1970's
Tocopa Hot Springs, Death Valley, Early 1970’s

Allan told me the pride he took in being a lineman, the beauty of the remote sites where he and his crew would set telephone poles, and the connection he felt with the line-setters who went before him–feeling their presence while climbing eighty year old telegraph poles.

I truly believe there are thousands of men like Alan Riegler across this country, I just thank God I had the chance to talk to one. Alan is retired now, a collector of insulators, a self-taught artist, an aspiring musician, a cancer survivor, and a believer that America is still the greatest country in the world. Alan is a true Renaissance man.

Thank you, Alan, for allowing the Barndogglers to use your painting and telling us your story–all started by a little blue insulator. Mike from Barndogglers still on the line.

View the incredible paintings created by Alan in the below album. Contact Alan to inquire about available prints.


Barndoggling the Klassen Barn

Currently the Barndogglers are working on a unique barn north of Plainview MN owned by the late Robert Klassen. Bob was the epitome of hard work and truly loved his life on the farm. The current owners of this barn are Jim & Jane Klassen.

Bob Klassen
Bob Klassen






We called in Marty Sveen, director of sales at Root River Hardwoods to tour our current project. We value Marty’s expertise on lumber and what the demand is for certain old growth species. The Klassen barn has a great deal of Douglass fir used for the beams and boards. There is also home sawed pine, oak, and elm used in substantial amounts. But the greatest find is 4,000 square feet of clear 3-1/2” tongue and grooved clear redwood siding. This material is a rarity and is very unlikely to be found again in these parts. The boards are reversible and can be used with either the weathered gray side showing or the non-weathered red side.

Klassen Farm
Klassen Farm

Watch the Barndogglers meeting with Marty –




A BIG “Barndoggler” Hello

Hello friends, both old and new.  The pace of life today is fast and full.  Work, family, relationships, and all those daily tasks fill almost every hour of the day, leaving little time for relaxation—let alone reflection.  I think everyone stops once in a while and thinks, “You know, things were better back in the day”. But, of course, every generation has had its hardships and struggles.  Our generation is no different—except that in so many ways we have benefitted from the earlier generations’ efforts.

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Because we can recognize that each generation of Americans has strived to make the future better than the past, we continue to look towards tomorrow and believe that each of us has the chance to achieve great things through hard work and fortitude. Greatness comes in many forms.  But it really just boils down to being the best at doing what it is that you do.  Greatness builds from pride in your family, career, community and country.


Our mission at Barndogglers is to bring some of that past greatness into today through repurposing architectural materials.  We will bring to you interesting stories arising from these artifacts–histories of ordinary people that somehow become extraordinary. And we want to hear and share your stories.  Thank you for paying us a visit.

Amicitiae nostrae memorium spero sempiternal fore.