Split Cherry Tree by Jesse Stuart is a story that takes place in a time when people thought more about farming and less about education. This story addresses conflicts concerning “rich vs. Poor” as well as “educated vs. uneducated”. Dave Sexton along with five of his classmates climbs a neighbor’s cherry tree to capture a lizard while on a field trip with his high school biology class. The cherry tree is broken and the owner wants the six boys to each pay a dollar for the cost of the tree.
Dave does not have the dollar need, so Professor Hubert pays for him in exchange for doing chores around the school. This causes Dave to be late for his farm work, which his father Luster is expecting his help with. Professor Hubert, not being from the hills doesn’t fully understand how hard farm life was for some families in the area. Luster was very upset because the professor made Dave stay after school to work off the debt while letting the other boys go just because they had the money to pay.
He states he will get it straightened out with the help of his gun, which has settled disputes before. . Luster tells Dave that he will be going to the school with him in the morning to get the matter settled. Luster fails to realize that education is different than what he remembers and gets very upset over the boys and girls being able to go on field trips together, and the subjects in which they are learning.
Luster confronts the professor over the idea of letting the kids go on the field trip as well as letting the other boys go and the professor states “I was right with these students” and that this is the new way of learning. He then asks Luster to stay and see what Dave is learning about and why they were on the field trip. After learning about how a black snake has the same germs as a person’s teeth and seeing them under a microscope, Luster sees the importance of this new way of book learning.
He wants better for Dave than he had and sees that his time of learning has passed but it’s not too late for Dave. After spending the day with Luster, Professor Hubert also has a better understanding of life in the “hills” for farm families, and the importance of having pride in one’s self. Professor Hubert offers to let Dave have the fifty cent still needed to pay the debt to him. Luster being an honorable man offers instead to help Dave work off the last fifty cent in an hours’ time, so that they can both go and finish the farm chores.