Tidioute, Pennsylvania

"I've got a pocketful of hash and a van topped off with gas,
I'm driving to Tidioute, Pennsylvania for a while.
I'm going up on Campbell Hill, Remember Marty with the Somervilles,
The memories of the cabin and creek always make me smile."

So begins one of the more requested and popular of the original songs that Colin Dussault has written. He performs this song entitled "Tidioute, Pennsylvania-Re-visited", every night, 4 to 5 nights a week, 270 times a year. Each and every time he breathes life into the words the reaction from the crowd is the same ... Applause, great big smiles and nods of comprehension and understanding.

Colin has had to answer many queries over the years regarding this song so he decided to dedicate a spot on his web site to the topic. Here then is the story behind the town and the song "Tidioute, Pennsylvania-Re-visited.

Tidioute, Pennsylvania (pronounced: tiddy-oot) is a little hamlet that sits on the banks of the Allegheny river in the beautiful Allegheny forest in Northwestern Pennsylvania. The borough of Tidioute is southeast of Erie, Pennsylvania, North of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is roughly 158 miles east of Colin's hometown, Cleveland, Ohio.

Tidioute is an Iroquois (Seneca) Indian word that means "protrusion of land". It was named this by the Indians because of the sharp bend in the Allegheny river that occurs at the site where Tidioute stands, thus creating a peninsula.

After the discovery of oil in the nearby town of Titusville in 1859, Tidioute became the site of the worlds very first flowing oil well. In addition to this world changing event, Tidioute is also the birthplace of the Standard Oil Company. As a result of the discovery of oil in the region many people made unfathomable fortunes from the black gold that sprung forth from the land. Millionaires were created and enormous wealth was made as the still standing Victorian homes and mansions in the surrounding towns beautifully illustrate.

Today Tidioute is a quiet river community that is a permanent home to roughly 800 residents. During the summer months and hunting and fishing season the population swells to several thousand people.

That is the abridged version of the history of Tidioute. Here then is how Colin Dussault came to know, love and write a song about this part of the world:

In the late 1960's & early 1970's Colin's father, his fathers' friends and fellow hippies and longhairs began going to the mountains just outside of Tidioute to camp, relax and enjoy the natural beauty and peaceful surroundings of the area. Colin's father took his young family with him on these trips and as a child Colin remembers looking out of the car windows as his dad drove along the roads that wove their way up and down the Allegheny forests dirt roads. For several years Colin's Father Artie, his Mother Laurel, his Uncle Brian Donahue, Sherry Donahue, Robbie Toole and countless other friends and relatives would traverse the mountain thoroughfares to a place where they had set up a camp. They built a pavilion alongside the creek and occasionally rented the little cottages that sat nearby.

Colin, his younger sister Jennifer and their friends, Sean and Tracy Toole would explore the bear caves and climb the large rocks that dotted the landscape of the woods. They would swim, fish & play in the Allegheny river and look under rocks for craw dads, frogs and minnows. They would pump water out of the well and play the games that children play while running barefoot in the grass. These children, and Colin in particular grew up loving and respecting the land that their parents had taken them to as youngsters.

Today several of Colins' families' friends have permanent homes and cottages in Tidioute. The area is still a popular destination for holidays and weekends and the same hippies and children of the sixties who went to Tidioute on a regular basis 25 years ago continue to return to the Tidioute to camp and enjoy the unspoiled beauty and the majestic pines of "Allegheny Land".

Every now and then these visitors to the mountains come down from their retreats and head into town to hear music and enjoy some libations! The place they head to and the bar that Colin pays homage to in his song is the Hotel Tidioute located on Main Street in dowtown Tidioute. The hotel was built back in the late 1800's and has all the character and charm of a bygone era. It was once a brothel, a gambling den and a hotel. The old building boasts an upstairs ballroom and comes complete with its' own ghost! Today the hotel is a rooming house of sorts for the local workers who man the timber mills, oil wells and other labor intense means of making a living that that the land offers.

In 1994 Colin was driving home from Tidioute after spending some time at the Sommerville's cotttage. He was there clearing his mind and getting his thoughts together. On the way home he began to hear verses in his head that were the nucleus of the song. He wrote the poem-like stanzas down on the back of map books, napkins, scraps of paper and anything else he could find while fighting to keep his Dodge van on the dirt road that he was traversing. The song that resulted was "Tidioute, Pennsylvania-Revisited".

Colin began performing the song at Around The Corner Saloon on Sunday nights with guitarists Jim Tigue & Austin "Walkin' Cane" Charnaghat and upright bassist Fred Tobey. After that he and his band recorded the song for inclusion on the "LIVE AT BROTHER'S LOUNGE" CD in 1995.

From there the song took on a life of its own. With each new incarnation of the band the arrangement was shaped and reshaped and the performances grew stronger resulting in the version heard today. The new vereses at the end, made up by Colin on stage one night and implemented after the song was already recorded, describes as Colin puts it "our incessant desire to destroy the land." It comments on "societies never ending quest to cut down all of our trees and forests and erect malls and plazas in their wake." It chastises the "builders and buyers of the hastily constructed two hundred thousand dollar plus homes in developments named after the very habitats they destroy to build upon. These people rape the land and then ironically give the cardboard neighborhoods names like "West Winds", "Briar Lakes", "Waterside Crossings" "Deer Run", "Laurel Woods", Highland Park" and "Woodgate Farms". It is humorously macabre in its stupidity and irony."

Colin thinks that "the most incredible, beautiful, sad and amusing sight is that of the old farm house, the falling down barn, the discarded tractor from a place in history that has all but vanished, still setting on a lot of undeveloped land surrounded by million dollar, poorly constructed, identically designed homes. These unimaginative domiciles surround the old house and inevitably they will overtake it but for now the original homestead holds the encroachers at bay and stands proudly, oblivious to how out of place it now looks in this world of sameness.

Colin says "I look at that scene and the most beautiful home is the old farmhouse not the cardboard, cookie cutter, press board boxes that are sprouting up like weeds all around it. Those places all look the same. They have no character whatsoever and they look and feel so pretentious and overblown. They are built so cheaply and quickly they can't possibly be built with any pride or a concern for lasting quality. They are simply thrown together and sold to meet the never ending demand of the people who have a need for things that are bigger, better and more expensive than the things their neighbors own. I think in keeping with the trend of ironic names they should name their streets after Thoreau! I read somewhere that today we have "smaller families and bigger homes". This is no more evident than when I drive by these developments. I think our new national motto should simply be "pave the earth"."

"In stark contrast to these palatial edifices with rooms too large and numerous to possibly enjoy is the little farmhouse that was built 50 or 100 years ago. The dwelling is still standing proudly and defiantly. It is saying "go ahead with your destruction and veracious appetite for consumption. I will sit here and I will not go away." Of course inevitably that farm house will disappear, despite its' stoic last stand, and with it so will all of the character and charm of our cities and towns. This is already evident and each day it becomes more and more clear. There are no more "ma and pa" corner stores or restaurants. No more real "home cooking". It has all been taken over by corporate entities who view people as consumers, dollar signs, numbers and profit margins. " In reference to this Colin wrote in his song, "I think that every single corner, in every single city, all across America today they all start to look the same, They've got the same 12 corporate restaurant chains with the same fucking buildings and names. I used to watch the sun rise up from behind the barns in the mornings on my way to school, Now a 12 acre mall has replaced the farm and their is a Walmart instead of crops and mules."

When considering why "Tidioute" is such a popular song Colin reasons " I think everybody has a special place that they go to. A place where they grew up camping or spending time with their families. It might be in Pennsylvania, It might in Colorado or in Michigan. It may be on Kelly's Island, in the Poconos or a little mobile home trailer sitting in the middle of nowhere. It doesn't matter what you call the place the places are all the same in the sense that they are our own little escape hatches from the crazy world that we live in. That is a common thread that most of us have. We all have a respite from the world where we seek refuge. I just happened to write about mine".

John Prine wrote eloquently about this same topic when he composed the song "Paradise" back in the ealry '70's. Jon Mitchell too-"They paved paradise and put up a parking lot".

Take some time off from your busy life. Load up the car, van or SUV, climb aboard your Harley and drive on up to Tidioute, maybe then you will "understand!" Hurry though. It may not be here tomorrow, we need more stores and malls and houses and...