Across the street from Dairy Queen in Nixon, a mural depicting relevant icons from the city’s past is being repainted and refreshed.
“There's a mural on the south side of the town, facing southward that was done in the late 1980s by some school kids in Nixon,” said Lucas Pastorfield-Li, the artist commissioned to restore the mural. “Being as old as it is, it's, it's been worn out. I was invited to refresh it. Not only just give it new layers of paint, but try and make some of the elements within the piece a little bit more realistic looking, a little bit more true to form.”
Pastorfield-Li was contacted by Pablo Aguirre, a former teacher who is from Gonzales. Aguirre saw Pastorfield-Li’s work on a mural at Fillmore Middle School in Austin where he used to teach, and commissioned him to work on the 2nd Street mural, as well as another one to be located in the town’s historic district.
“I was born here and all my family was we were all raised here,” Aguirre said. “I've noticed the mural. And I've also noticed that people stop at the Dairy Queen, and they'll come over and they'll take pictures. And then I also noticed we had a historical marker here. Nobody even knew, my sister didn't even know it was there.”
Aguirre said he began taking on a series of community projects, including a Memorial Day remembrance ceremony, to give back and pay it forward.
“I chose to leave the legacy here,” Aguirre said. “I could have done it in Austin, but they don't need people like me. They have tons of ‘em. Nixon, It's my hometown, and I'm proud to be here. But they don't have folks that are taking the time to do these kinds of things. So I thought, Well, hey, I can do it. So here we are.”
Also taking on the large-scale restoration of the town’s history is Donald Hoffman, formerly a history teacher and then Principal at Nixon-Smiley High School. Hoffman works to record the history of the area, having published two books concerning the area’s origins in cattle ranching and railroads.
“We have built two display walls beside the historical marker that designates the city of Nixon,” Hoffman said. “And on that wall, those two walls, we're going to put three historical plaques. All over town we're going to put probably 20 to 25 plaques. Out town’s disappeared. all these used to be buildings right here. We're going to recreate not the buildings, but the pictures that show where the buildings were and pictures of the buildings. We’re going to go all over town.”
Hoffman said that local donations and sponsors are funding the project, which will share the city’s long history as a visual component to what he said is included in his books, “Birthplace of The American Cowboy” and “South of the Guadalupe: A History of Nixon & Southern Gonzales County.”
“These are narratives to try to maintain the history of this area,” Hoffman said. “What we're trying to do in Nixon is a visual history to recapture where the buildings were, what they look like, because the progress has gotten a hold of us with an awful lot of our buildings. We're trying to reestablish our connection with what Nixon once was.”
As for the present day and what the town of Nixon is now, Pastorfield-Li said he has received a warm welcome from its citizens, who have even gone so far as to light the mural after sundown.
“Last night I was working kind of late and it was getting kind of dark out and there's a Dairy Queen right behind the wall that I'm working on,” Pastorfield-Li said. “And all these folks, they were getting some Dairy Queen and they came out and getting in their car, they turned their headlights on, they lit up the wall for me while I was working on it. It was incredible. It was really sweet.”
Aguirre said that projects such as the mural and greater work being done to restore Nixon’s history are intended to uplift what he said is a “wonderful place to live.”
“My projects are simply designed to work with the wonderful, proud people in my hometown, selecting high impact projects that no one has time to tackle given our limited resources, yet enhancing and beautifying the community,” Aguirre said. “Nixon is struggling just as most small, rural communities in these times of Covid, but we have wonderful people here, working very hard to earn their living. I’m just proud to be from Nixon, who has given me so much.”
Correction: In the Thursday, July 23 edition of the Gonzales Inquirer, we mistakenly reported in a feature story about the repainting of a mural in Nixon that Pablo Aguirre was born in Gonzales, when he actually was born in Nixon. We apologize for any inconvenience this error may have caused.