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The Ozymandias Legs

There's no denying most of Texas is flat. In some areas, the highest point is a Dairy Queen sign, or if there's enough traffic, an Allsup's. So, when something like a gigantic pair of legs breaks the clean edge of the horizon, people take notice. From afar, they look like a couple of monstrous thorns protruding from Amarillo's side, which is exactly what a lot of people consider the work to be – it and all the other unusual spectacles commissioned by Stanley Marsh 3, the man responsible for the legs, Cadillac Ranch and a number of other local oddities he likes to refer to as "a legalized form of insanity."

This particular dose of madness is purported to be the ruins described in a 19th-century sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley, husband to the author of Frankenstein and, apparently, a famous poet. The sonnet, titled Ozymandias, tells of a pair of detached limbs in the desert, the remains of an ancient statue. Supposedly, those limbs are the same set that stand just off I-27.

The enormous gams, like everything else in rural Texas, are cordoned off by endless barbed wire, but visitors can read all about them on a nearby Texas Historical Marker. The marker cites Shelley's poem, describing "two vast and trunkless legs" and "near them… half sunk, a shattered visage."

A thoughtfully placed asterisk directs readers to a footnote explaining why the stumps before them accompany no such shattered visage. The visage, "(or face)" the plaque helpfully explains, was apparently damaged by students from Lubbock after they lost to Amarillo in an unspecified competition. The face now resides, the footnote adds, in the Amarillo Museum of Natural History.

Of course, you have to realize the man behind the whole thing is the same person who was described in a 1999 poll as both a "subversive genius" and a "ridiculously foolish eccentric." It turns out the historical marker is a sham, the big face doesn't exist and Amarillo has never had a museum of natural history.

Quite simply, as Marsh has pointed out, Shelley's poem is about the futility of monuments. So, he built a monument to it.

Weird Texas

 

 

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