The White House had a big shindig this week featuring American Made products.

Part of the expo included something from each state.

Tennessee was Gibson Guitars.

Texas was a Stetson hat.

Indiana… well, we don’t need to go into detail but if the best you can come up is a broom, you’re doing it wrong.

Though as South Dakotans we should probably tread lightly. Our contribution was "shotgun chaps" from K Bar J Leather Company in Newell.

I know, there are questions.

Shotgun chaps are a version of what you imagine chaps to be – Woody in Toy Story, various folks on V-Twin powered motorcycles and the Village People – but in this case for actual cowboys... and girls.

It turns out there are a lot of different types of chaps for various work or recreation functions. Too many to list or try to explain here. Just go to the K Bar J website and prepare to be amazed.

Newell is way up in the northwest corner, in Butte County. North of Spearfish. Between Belle Fourche and Mud Butte. So it’s like, legit ranch country.

Shotgun chaps seem an odd item to represent South Dakota’s homegrown business. Not that they aren’t a quality item. Clearly they are.

But does the image we present to the world always have to be a cowboy, or Mt. Rushmore, or a photo of decrepit windmill silhouetted against the sun setting brilliantly against the expansive prairie?

Every time?

Do we always have to seem like a John Ford film?

Shotgun chaps. Let it sink in.

Their Executive Boardroom line looks beautiful. I would use several items, including the messenger bag. Clearly they know leather and how to work it.

Sure, they make saddlebags, holsters and knife holders.

But also pillows, travel bags and whatever these are.

How about a collection, an assortment of fine leather goods? That would be cool.

Shotgun chaps? Some forethought please.

Nothing against K Bar J, I hope they sell a ton of stuff.

But here are some other possibilities.

  • We make a lot of food here in South Dakota, from Dakota Potato Chips and sunflower seeds to various popcorn products to chislic (if you don’t know, don’t ask). But it seems to me that the Tanka Snack Bar from Native American Natural Foods is about as original a product as you’ll find. The bar, available in many retail locations in the area and online, is made from bison meat and dried berries, a traditional food source. They’re very good.
  • Native American arts in general. But I found this company – Sioux Pottery in Rapid City – which produces a line of handmade pottery made from the red clay of the Black Hills. That was just one, but there’s a wide variety of artisans in the state.
  • But if I had to pick one company to represent South Dakota developed and made products, it would be Daktronics. The Brookings-based scoreboard manufacturer is known across the globe. No need to retell their story here but it’s impressive and worthy of recognition. Illinois had a Caterpillar tractor at this thing. Sure there was room for a scoreboard.

Have any other ideas. Shoot them over to me via email at or though Twitter @plalleyshow.

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