Ozymandias on the Plains – Amarillo, Texas - Atlas Obscura

Ozymandias on the Plains

A pair of giant legs paying homage to a poem, a king, and it would seem, socks. 


Just off the highway heading south on I-27 out of Amarillo, two gigantic legs in athletic socks can be seen. You wouldn’t know it, but they are in fact the shattered likeness of an Egyptian king. “Ozymandias” is the Greek name for Ramesses II and was the inspiration and name of a famous poem written in 1818 by Romantic poet Percy Shelley after a visit to the ruins.

A plaque near the gigantic legs reads:

“In 1819, while on their horseback trek over the Great Plains of New Spain, Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein), came across these ruins. Here Shelley penned his immortal lines, among them:

I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert… And on the pedestal these words appear: ‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’

The pedestal near the monument also asserts that the visage of the king was destroyed by Lubbock football players after losing a game to Amarillo, which while plausible, is of course false.

The sculpture was built by local self-taught artist Lightnin’ McDuff, who specializes in altering found objects to make new pieces of art. The sculpture has been vandalized numerous times, most notably with the addition of socks to the legs. Occasionally the sock vandalism is sandblasted off of the sculpture, but always seems to reappear. The locals appear to prefer the king’s legs be kept warm.

Like the more famous Cadillac Ranch, this monument is another of the peculiar philanthropist, millionaire, and artist Stanley Marsh 3’s creations. (He actually prefers the Arabic numeral over what he considers to be the more pretentious Roman numeral.) He is responsible for many of the interesting attractions in Amarillo, including Dynamite Museum and Floating Mesa.

Know Before You Go

Head south on I-27 out of Amarillo, the monument stands on the east side of the road, not far from the junction with Sundown Lane.

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