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Dave's relationship with his Pa at the beginning of the story is based on a clear understanding that physical punishment awaited him if he crossed his father's ways or rules. "He might be called a little old-fashioned. He makes us mind him until we're twenty-one years old. He believes: 'If you spare the rod you spoil the child.'" Dave realizes why his Pa is the way he is, knowing that his Pa has had very little formal education but has formed strong opinions based on the life experiences he has had. "I wasn't ashamed of Pa. I wouldn't be as long as he behaved."
By the end of the story, however, Dave has gained insight into his father's values and is proud of the way Pa handles himself.
I'm behind, Dave. I'm a little man. Your hands will be softer than mine. Your clothes will be better. You'll allus look cleaner than your old Pap. Jist remember, Dave, to pay your debts and be honest. Jist be kind to animals and don't bother th' snakes.
Dave sees Professor Herbert as someone who doesn't understand the kind of home situation Dave has. He feels that Professor Herbert is too isolated from the kind of life Dave leads to understand the hardship he is imposing when he requires Dave to stay at school late to work off his debt.
Professor Herbert really didn't know how much work I had to do at home. If he had known he would not have kept me after school...He had never lived in the hills. He didn't know the way the hill boys had to work so that they could go to school.
After Professor Herbert and Pa meet, Dave is relieved to realize that Professor Herbert is more understanding than he had thought. "I'm going to cancel the debt," says Professor Herbert. "I just wanted you to understand, Luster."
In the end, Dave realizes he looks up to both men, for different reasons. He appreciates Professor Herbert's understanding and compassion; he appreciates Pa's ability to learn and his honesty.
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