Las Cruces is a small city where cattle and crops can be found close to the center of town, along with a twice-weekly food and crafts mercado. We drove across the river to the old town of Mesilla, with a small plaza surrounded by hacienda-style stores with shady verandas and, on one side, the old church. There's also the Billy The Kid Saloon, where he was tried, found guilty, and escaped through the window. On the roof we saw a Christmas manger scene, almost life-sized, with brightly painted fiberglass figures.

Heading back through the city we saw a hot air balloon in the process of inflation and took lots of pictures until the three occupants glided silently skyward. The three on the ground might have headed off to a hot breakfast, as the morning was quite chilly -- good for ballooning.

We stopped at a K-Mart in Deming, to discover a crowd of people and uniformed law enforcement folks at the door. We approached gingerly until we had a good laugh at ourselves for being nervous about Shop With A Cop Day! As one of the Sheriffs told us, each officer escorted two needy children at a time The balloon, colored two shades of red with white and blue stripes, from which a basket with three people is suspended, hovers a little above the cement take-off location Up, up in the air... through the store; they could buy up to $20 each, generally in toys, and the officer paid at the checkout stand. Besides the sheriffs, the city police, Border Patrol, and Highway Patrol all turned out officers to be with the kids. As we left and saw the crowd still waiting to go in, we reflected that Deming, NM sure had a lot of needy children. But it made us feel good to see the charity work in progress, face to face.

Long time readers may remember great-great aunt Ellen, whom we last saw in 1881 in Nevadaville, CO, preparing to join her husband James Nicholls in Silver City, NM. We also knew that by 1887 she was buying property in Tombstone, AZ, as the wife of William S. Maston.

At the Silver City Museum we got the gist of what happened, although we still don't have all the details. In the summer of 1883 Mrs. Ellen Nichols opened a boardinghouse, but in February 1884 she married W. S. Maston, who was working in the mines near Bullard's peak. The newspaper covered the wedding.

Another newspaper article, dated June, 1886, filled in the details of the tragedy of Jim Nichols. The miners in Cooney had offered to contribute $1 a month each to Jim's care in the Silver City Hospital, but the hospital refused to accept him because he might become demented and injure another patient. Out on the street he got into an altercation with a stranger and was knocked down and then taken into custody by the Sheriff. The reporter was of the opinion that Grant County ought to have a way of taking care of people such as Jim, who had not been in his right mind ever since he suffered a fractured skull.

So we know that Ellen must have divorced Jim Nichols, taken their four surviving children, aged 4 to 13, and married William Maston, shortly thereafter moving from Silver City to Tombstone.

Jumping ahead with our story, two days later we found William and Ellen Maston's grave in the Evergreen Cemetery in Tucson. William had died in 1889, Ellen in 1917. A two-year-old daughter is buried with them.

Ellen was one of eight surviving children born near St. Austell, Cornwall. They came to the U.S. with their parents in 1866. The parents and all the children but Ellen lived on farms in Iowa, South Dakota, and Kansas. Instead of a farmer, Ellen married two miners (we think of Cornish stock), both of whom died young; she spent her later years as a widow running a boarding house for Cornish miners in Bisbee, Arizona. So of course she excites our interest as the family maverick.

We find ourselves driving through southern New Mexico and Arizona fairly often, as we have our truck inspected and registered in Texas, but drive to see family and friends in California. So we expect to be filling in more details about great-great aunt Ellen's eventful life on future trips. Genealogy is a patient hobby.