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A Range of Harsh Lessons

Schoolyard slurs, an incest charge and county social services shatter a black family's Kiowa dream.

"I think it was something about we were being mistreated," says Krystal, now married and the mother of three.

"I just know the social service people came up to school and asked us questions," she says. "They basically got the same answer: All of us said nothing was going on."

The Veaseys didn't use violence to keep the kids in check, says Krystal. "If we got in trouble, usually they'd sit down and talk to us, unless we did something really bad -- we'd get popped, like hit on the hand, or usually [Earl] would ground us for a while. If we'd do something like steal, we'd get in a great deal of trouble."

Diane says the troubles contributed to the death of her husband, Earl.
Diane says the troubles contributed to the death of her husband, Earl.
Diane Veasey hopes to be reunited with her family at her Kiowa "ranch."
Anthony Camera
Diane Veasey hopes to be reunited with her family at her Kiowa "ranch."

Diane admits that her disciplinary measures weren't always as benign as a swat on the hand.

"The kids would get spankings," she says, "but not always. We also at times would make them do exercises. Jumping jacks or something, or we'd make them go in the corner. There wasn't cruelty."

After an investigation of several weeks, Diane says, the accusations were deemed unfounded and the case was dismissed.

"They found nothing wrong," Krystal agrees.

Sheryl Thompson of Children's Protective Services in Flint said she could not comment because of confidentiality.

By 1994, Flint's luster had faded for the Veasey family. General Motors wasn't doing well, factories were closing, and people were moving on, leaving behind abandoned, boarded-up homes. The Veaseys decided to move on. Ronald's actions, says Diane, helped fuel their decision to go.

Surprisingly, Earl and Diane decided to move their city-bred kids to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

"My husband and I went there one summer and we liked it," Diane says of their decision to move to Wyoming. "It was nice and quiet, and we wanted to get away from Flint, which had become rough. We decided to move and go to a smaller place."

"About ten, no twelve, of the children moved with us."

The teenage Krystal wasn't ecstatic about the move at first.

"My father wanted to get us kids out of the fast life to something more mellow," she says. "He wanted to keep us out of trouble.

"It was hard to adjust a little bit. We wanted to go back to Flint at first. But we knew we weren't going nowhere, so we had to get used to it. We all pitched in and did what we needed to do."

In Cheyenne, Earl became an associate minister at Second Baptist Church and took a second job working in the local schools' custodial department.

The family quickly fell into a routine.

"My father would go to work -- I think he left for work before we went to school," Krystal says, "and me and Brant [one year her senior] got everyone together. My father used to cook us breakfast, then we'd get the rest of them up. We'd get ourselves out to school."

Deciding that their financial struggles were behind them by 1997, Earl retired, and he and Diane began looking for some land.

"I decided Kiowa was the place," Diane says. "It's quiet and peaceful."

They moved to Kiowa in September 1999. The house the Veaseys chose -- a two-story home on a rise several miles northeast of Kiowa -- isn't anything special. It's seen a lot of wear and tear, and its rooms are tiny and jumbled. What it does have, though, is an expansive view of the Front Range all the way from north of Denver to as far south as Pikes Peak. The treeless expanse is blown clean each day with air as crisp as that found on the Wyoming plains. There's plenty of room here for people and horses and dogs and kids.

It seems to offer a wholesome, if lonely, existence.

"The children didn't like it at first," Diane says. "They couldn't do the kinds of things they wanted to do, like living up in the city. You're not close to your neighbors. But once they got here they adapted, because they got to go up to the cities."

By "the cities," Diane means Denver and Aurora, both of which are more than forty miles northwest of the Veasey home.

There are just 425 kids in Elbert County's C-2 school district. Classes, from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, are held in a three-building campus in Kiowa.

Traditionally, the student body is overwhelmingly white; approximately 5 percent of the students are minorities, says superintendent Greg Kruthaupt. He estimates that blacks generally make up 1 to 2 percent of the student population.

So when ten Veasey kids enrolled at the Kiowa school, they effectively doubled the number of black students in attendance. And it didn't take long for problems to erupt.

The Veaseys, primarily the older boys, were being threatened by other students, says Diane. "They said they were going to kill them. They called them 'nigger.'"

Diane met with then-principal Jerry McWhorter. "There were results," she says. According to her, two students were suspended for two weeks.

McWhorter, who now serves as assistant principal at D'Evelyn Junior/Senior High School in Golden, is less clear on what occurred.

"Our district set goals for that year, and one of our goals was having a respectful climate," he says. "To be honest, I can't remember all the details [of the Veasey case]. I think something like that happened, and there certainly would have been consequences. If the issue came up, I would have acted, without any question."

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