New England's Silent Fireworks

Traveling along a New Hampshire road lined with crimson and gold, I came upon a sign that perfectly captured New England's hard-nosed work ethic. It read: "Why wait for an emergency to prepare?"

That notion seems silly to people in the world's warmer climes. In Africa, for instance, locals laugh at tourists who tote umbrellas in the dry season. It doesn't rain for months, so why prepare?

Not so here. Preparation is the way of life, and the glowing leaves are nature's gracious warning of the cold to come. Yankees even prepare for tomorrow, going to bed early so they can be up before dawn. Boston is notoriously lifeless after dark, but its highways are bulging by 6 a.m.

If you're not on Yankee time, it can be rough. In rural New Hampshire, daylight was just fading when I realized I'd lost my car key. The locksmith was already in bed, so I had to wait (in a tent by the side of the road) until 6 a.m.

Yankees also never throw anything away. One usually frugal friend, in a fit of extravagance, disposed of a liquid-soap bottle with two ounces left. But that night his Yankee nature prevailed: He retrieved it and vowed to use every drop.

Each fall, tourists come to see tree-borne fireworks, hoping their photos turn out as well as these from New Hampshire and Vermont. But to locals, the colors are a reminder of the motto the Boy Scouts must have borrowed: Be prepared.

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