It's 9:30 a.m. on a Monday and a silver '79 Cadillac pulls into the Pahrump Justice Complex parking lot. Two white stickers line its driver's side doors. One reads "Keep the Faith," scribbled in black marker. The other: "Believe."
A white-bearded man emerges, wearing dark sunglasses, a baseball cap and a T-shirt with a message: "Evil Flourishes When Good Men Do Nothing."
Ray Mielzynski knows what people think when they first see him standing on the side of State Route 160 - or any of the other roads throughout Pahrump. He knows when passersby see his eight-foot flag pole in one hand, a copy of the Bill of Rights in the other, and a pistol on each hip, they think he's insane.
"I can read lips," he says. "When I see a guy for the first time, I can see they're saying, 'Hey, Marge, look at the whack job carrying the flag.'"
But Mielzynski - Mallow, locals call him - doesn't mind, because he also knows most take him seriously once they understand what he's doing.
Mallow's been walking the streets of Pahrump since May 1998, after living in the valley for 20 years. Originally a record-label owner from Chicago, Mallow moved to Las Vegas in 1976 after spotting a cheap chunk of land during a visit. Having been stood up at the altar a short time before that, Mallow needed a change and bought the land. After receiving high-dollar offers for the property, he decided to buy more lots - five acres every month - and sell them, too.
By 1978, Mallow had enough money to retire to 40 acres in Pahrump, a town which, at the time, was home only to about 1,300 people.
"You could drive to Vegas and back without seeing a car when I first came here," he said of his then-new home. In the decades since, much has changed, both in the growing desert town of Pahrump and with Mallow. For years, he spent his time enjoying retirement by fishing.
The change came, Mallow says, in the mid-'90s, when his visiting brother scolded him for enjoying retired life while other people were "getting arrested just to teach 'em a lesson."
fter checking into his brother's claims, Ray Mielzysnki became Ray "The Flagman" Mallow. There hasn't been a week since that he hasn't walked the streets of Pahrump, flag in-hand.
At least four times a week, the Flagman sits in at the Pahrump Justice Court, "just so there's a witness," he says. Sure, he wants to make sure the innocent aren't locked up. But make no mistake: Mallow's a firm believer in justice and punishment. "I fight on both sides," he says.
But to Mallow, justice is built into the core freedoms provided by the Constitution, namely the 2nd amendment.
"When honest citizens carry guns, the crime goes away," he says, offering Nye County gun laws and tossing out statistics. (He notes that 400,000 lives a year are saved by the presence of a firearm-carrying citizen.)
He encourages all people to carry a gun. "If women carried guns, rapes would be virtually nonexistent."
But Mallow doesn't center his efforts around a single amendment, but rather the whole document.
"I stand for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights," he says. "I want this country to go back to the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and not some perverted version of it. The way it was written is the way it should be."
And while he knows most pin him as a novelty at first glance, he says people he talks to eventually come around. In his latest bid for Nye County Sheriff, a job he says he'll do for free, Mallow received 588 votes - up from 315 four years ago. And he's even contesting that vote count, saying far more voters indicated their support prior to the primary election.
"I see young ladies throwing me kisses," says Mallow. "It's exhilarating to get that kind of support."
Still, the Flagman's efforts aren't always appreciated. Some of the people who either don't agree with - or just don't get - him, Mallow says, have tried their best to stop him.
"I have people sometimes aim their car at me and see if I'll jump out of the way," he says. "But I don't budge because I figure if they want me, they'll get me."
But unlike some of his naysayers, violence just isn't the Flagman's style. His revolution is verbal.
"It will come to violence if something isn't done," he says. "People are ready to go, but I tell them just to wait. We'll change things." LW
Joshua Chase is a staff reporter for The Mirror, a weekly newspaper in Pahrump