Hearts and Crosses (Henry)

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Hearts and Crosses
Summary of the Short Story
from the Collection «Heart of the West»
Microsummary: A ranch foreman married a cattle queen, but felt overshadowed by her authority and left to regain his manhood; he later returned after proving himself in a distant ranch.

Baldy Woods and Webb Yeager, two cowboys, discussed their dissatisfaction with their lives. Webb was particularly unhappy with his position as a "prince-consort" to his wife, Santa McAllister, who was known as the "cattle queen" of West Texas.

Webb Yeager — ranch foreman; tall, light-haired, quiet; husband of Santa; determined to regain his manhood.
Santa Yeager — cattle queen; slim, strong, pretty; wife of Webb; independent, caring, and business-savvy.

He felt emasculated by her control over the business side of their ranch, while he managed the cattle. After their conversation, Webb decided to leave Santa and the ranch to regain his sense of manhood.

I'd be king if I was you, said Baldy, so positively that his holster creaked and his spurs rattled.

Years later, a man named Bartholomew mentioned to Santa that he had seen Webb working as a manager on another ranch. Santa continued to run her ranch successfully, but one night, she secretly branded a white cow with a heart and cross, a symbol that had once held special meaning for her and Webb. The cow was among a group of cattle sold to another ranch, where Webb was now working.

Webb recognized the brand on the white cow and returned to Santa's ranch. They reconciled, with Webb acknowledging his past mistakes and Santa assuring him that she was no longer a queen, but a wife and mother. As they settled back into their life together, they were once again faced with the decision of where to send their cattle, but this time, they made the decision together.