In Split Cherry Tree, Dave's first problem with his father concerns being late for chores. He knows that his father would whip him for failing to show up on time, regardless of his reasons for being late. Dave feels that his old-fashioned father would never understand about the split cherry tree or the place of lizards in classroom learning.
When Dave and five of his classmates climb up a cherry tree to catch a sunning lizard, the burden of their collective weights causes the tree trunk to split. Eif Crabtree, the owner of the cherry tree, charges the boys six dollars for their crime.
While the other five boys are able to pay their share towards the six dollar fine, Dave is too poor to pay his share. His teacher, Professor Herbert, pays Dave's fine in advance but expects the young student to make up the amount by doing chores for two hours after school, for two days. Dave begs his teacher to whip him and to let him go home early so that his father will not whip him for being two hours late for the farm chores.
Professor Herbert refuses to do such a thing; he tells Dave that he's too old to whip. On his way home after the first chore period, Dave worries about getting punished or whipped by his father. Briefly, he flirts with the possibility of lying his way out of it, but decides against it. He reasons to himself that his father would probably scout out the truth anyway and that his punishment might just end up being worse if he is caught lying.
Dave decides to tell his father the truth about why he is late. Not surprisingly, his father ends up being quite upset with Professor Herbert for what he thinks is a dereliction of a teacher's duty. Dave's father cannot fathom why a student would need to be gathering various insects, animals, or plants for some subject called 'Biology.' He decides to pay Dave's hapless teacher a visit the next day.