What does Dave realize about himself in "Split Cherry Tree"?
Dave comes to understand that he is proud of his background, proud of coming from a dirt-poor farming family isolated back in the hill country. He realizes that he is fortunate to be getting an education that is opening new fields of knowledge and new possibilities for his future, but that he has nothing to be ashamed of in his past.
Dave dreads the meeting between Pa and Professor Herbert because he doesn't know how Pa will conduct himself in the presence of his instructor and the other students. Dave knew that schooling practices had changed, and he knew that Pa didn't know or understand those changes.
I could tell Pa that school had changed in the hills from the way it was when he was a boy, but he wouldn't understand. I could tell him we studied frogs, birds, snakes, lizards, flowers, insects. But Pa wouldn't understand.
Once Pa and Professor Herbert start talking, however, Dave discovers that Pa is willing, even eager, to learn about all the new approaches that Professor Herbert is bringing to Dave's education. Pa concedes the value of much of what is being done but expresses his own values and concerns when needed.
Pa holds his face down and looks through the microscope. We stop and watch Pa. He sits upon the tall stool. His knees are against the table. His legs are long. His coat slips up behind when he bends over..."We have a big black snake over here we caught yesterday," says Professor Herbert. "We'll chloroform him and dissect him and show you he has germs in his body, too.""Don't do it," says Pa. "I believe you. I jist don't want to see you kill the black snake. I never kill one. They are good mousers and a lot o' help to us on the farm. I like black snakes. I jist hate to see people kill 'em. I don't allow 'em killed on my place."
Dave realizes he is fortunate for two reasons. He is benefitting by receiving a modern education, filled with life lessons and first-hand experiences that are relevant and important to his current life situation and in preparation for his future. He is also fortunate in having a father who is flexibile enough to learn and deal with radical changes in the world around him.