Split Cherry Tree

by Jesse Stuart

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How does this information relate to the characters in the short story "Split Cherry Tree"? The farmers in Kentucky in the 1920’s were less modern than the people of some bigger cities in America.   These farmers were uneducated.  This is because it took a few generations to get schools in Kentucky.  When the children of these farmers grew up and became adults, they had three choices about where to live.  They could stay on the farm, they could move away, or they could move to the city to study and come back again (which is what Jesse Stuart did).

The short story “Split Cherry Tree” was about a boy named Dave growing up in the mountains of Kentucky and his father Luster. Dave is a very smart kid, but he lives with only his father and brother Luster, who are farmers. His dad wants him to go to school so he can get an education, but he doesn’t want to because he thinks it will hurt his hands. Dave has a serious talk with his dad one day and they agree that if Dave can split a cherry tree with an axe, then his dad will let him stay home from school.

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Author Jesse Stuart based "Split Cherry Tree" on information he picked up while he served as the principal of a rural Kentucky school, and he may have seen a similarity between the character he created, Dave, and himself. Stuart was born in a backhills log cabin, became the first member of his family to complete high school, and eventually graduated from a small, rural college (Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee). Dave does seem to be destined to eventually leave the small community from which he hails, and he already thinks of running away from home when he recognizes that his father is planning to pay a visit to the school with his trusty .44. Dave's father is determined to see that his youngest son finishes high school--the first in the family of of eleven children to do so. Presumably, the other ten children have remained farmers--in Kentucky or elsewhere--since none received an education past grade school. Luster will no doubt die there, a hard-working man who knows nothing else but tending to the soil; meanwhile, Dave will get an education, leave the area, and earn an easier living, and he may choose to return to the Bluegrass State just as Stuart did.

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