What a fine day it was for young George Washington! At just six years old, he had his very own hatchet. George was proud of his new hatchet. It felt solid in his small hands. Its blade was shiny and sharp. George swung the hatchet through the air just to see the sun shine on it.
His father stopped him. "A hatchet is not a toy, George," his father warned. "It can do much harm if you are not careful. Always be careful when you use it."
George nodded at his father's words. His father was talking to him like a man. Owning a hatchet was a serious thing, indeed. George promised he would always be very careful with it.
Once he was outside, though, George felt more excited than serious. His family's farm seemed full of things to cut. George started testing the hatchet's sharpness in the fields.
First George tested his hatchet on a row of weeds at the edge of the cornfield. It sliced through their thin stems. The row of tall weeds became a pile of cut weeds. George smiled. He took aim at the thicker stalks of the corn plants.
Whack! Three cornstalks fell with a rustle and a crunch. George stepped back, startled. He looked at his hatchet with a new respect. His father was right. He would have to be careful.
The sharp hatchet cut quickly through all kinds of things -- even an ear of corn.
Then George saw that an ear of corn had fallen to the ground. It was even thicker than the cornstalks. George's hatchet sliced the corncob in half with no problem.
Not far from the cornfield, George's father tended to his fruit trees. His father was proud of the sweet apples, peaches, and pears that the trees gave his family. He kept the trees' branches trimmed, and watched them for any sign of sickness.
Mr. Washington gave extra attention to his youngest tree. It was a cherry tree, and it had come from far away. The cherry tree had been just a sapling when Mr. Washington planted it. Each year, Mr. Washington watched it grow stronger.
Mr. Washington took very good care of his cherry tree.
This year, there were blossoms on its branches. Perhaps, he thought, it might even give fruit. Mr. Washington thought of the fresh cherries they could pick.
Then he thought of the cherry pies Mrs. Washington could bake with the sweet cherries. He smiled to himself as he gave the cherry tree a pat.
George ran up to Mr. Washington as he walked back to the house for supper. "This hatchet works well, Father," he said.
His father smiled. "Yes, I've seen you using it."
"Thank you again, Father, for such a wonderful gift," said George as he ran inside to get ready for dinner.
When they sat down for dinner, George laid his hatchet down in a corner of the room. All through dinner, he looked over at it. What could he do with it next?
George's mother noticed how George watched the hatchet.
"I think it's time you put that hatchet to good use, George," she said.
"Tomorrow, I would like you to chop kindling for the fire."
"Oh yes, Mother!" George said. "I can start tonight!"
Mrs. Washington said, "You need a good night's sleep first."
George put his hatchet under his bed. He climbed into bed and closed his eyes. George had a hard time falling asleep. He couldn't wait until morning. He saw himself chopping piles, and then mounds, and then mountains of kindling!
When George finally fell asleep, he dreamed that he was a great woodcutter. With one sweep of his hatchet, he cut down whole forests.
The next morning, George hurried through his breakfast. As soon as he finished his last bite, he told his mother, "I'm ready to chop kindling now." His mother sent him out to the woodshed.
George looked around for the kindling. It was not a mountain of kindling. And it was barely a mound. Still, George went to work. He chopped the long, thin branches into small sticks.
Then George chopped the small sticks into smaller sticks. Then he chopped the smaller sticks into pieces. George saw that the pieces were too small to be chopped further. He ran inside to tell his mother that he had finished his job.
George and his hatchet made quick work of the kindling.
"I'm finished, Mother. Is there any more kindling for me to chop?" George asked.
"No, George. You may play for a while," she said.
George didn't want to play. He wanted to chop more wood.
George wandered outside. George decided to test his hatchet again. He went to an old, thick fence post. On the first strike, his hatchet's blade sunk deep into the wood.
George had to tug to pull it free. "Well, that was too thick," George thought. Then he saw the trunk of the young cherry tree.
The tree trunk looked just right. It wasn't full-grown as the apple and pear trees were. George chopped at the cherry tree. The blade dug into the tree trunk, but pulled free easily. Why, it would take just a few strokes of his hatchet to cut the tree down!
George chopped until the tree fell. George looked proudly at the fallen tree. Then he remembered how much his father liked the cherry tree. And he remembered how his father had told him to be careful with the hatchet.
George hurried back to the woodshed and sat in a dark corner.
Mr. Washington saw the fallen tree on his way to the house. He saw that its trunk was cut through with many strokes. Then he realized there would be no cherries. There would be no cherry pies.
After all his hard work and care, there would be no cherry tree. George's father sadly walked back to the house.
George saw his father walk past the woodshed. Slowly, he followed his father into the house. He held his hatchet tightly.
His father turned as he heard George come in the door. He looked at George. He looked at George's hatchet. George could see that his father was very angry.
"George," he said, "do you know who cut down my cherry tree?"
George took a deep breath. He tried not to think about being punished. Instead George said, "I cannot tell a lie, Father. I cut down your cherry tree."
Even though he was scared, George knew he had to tell his father the truth.
George looked at his feet. He felt like crying. "I wasn't careful with the hatchet. I'm sorry, Father." Then he held his breath and waited to hear what his punishment would be.
George felt his father's hands on his shoulders. "Look at me, Son," said Mr. Washington. George made himself look up at his father. To George's surprise, his father no longer seemed angry. In fact, Mr. Washington looked rather calm.
"You have been honest, Son," said Mr. Washington. "That means more to me than any cherry tree ever could."
Of course, George's father was disappointed that there would be no cherries to make cherry pies, but he was proud of his son for telling the truth. "So remember, you must always tell the truth," George's father added.
George's father was proud that he had been honest.
George never forgot those words. They were a lesson for life.
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THE MORAL OF "GEORGE WASHINGTON AND THE CHERRY TREE" -- HONESTY
Young George Washington was proud to have gotten a hatchet from his parents. Yet George was not careful with it and cut down his father's cherry tree.
When he realized what he had done, George did not try to hide the mistake from his father. George knew that the right thing to do was to tell the truth, though his father could punish him. His father forgave him and even praised him for being honest.
Sometimes telling the truth seems scary. Did you ever tell the truth knowing that you might be punished?
Being honest when you know someone may be hurt or upset is hard. Even if you are afraid, telling the truth is always better.
-Story from howstuffworks.com