Mannford father, son try to get back to routine as school starts
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Friday, August 17, 2012
8/17/12 at 7:00 AM
See photo slideshows of the fire and its damage, view aerial video from Saturday’s inferno and read previous stories.
MANNFORD - Since his home was destroyed in the recent wildfires, 7-year-old Austin Gready has been living in a motor home with his dad at Keystone Dam.
But he wanted to go back home Thursday morning so he could catch the bus with his friends on the first day of school at Mannford Elementary following the fires that burned more than 58,500 acres, destroyed 376 homes in Creek County and left 75 of the school's students homeless.
"I went to sleep, and like a minute later (it was time for school)," the second-grader said.
But like a good soldier, Austin crawled out of bed around 6:15 a.m. in his Angry Birds pajamas, ripped the tags off his new school clothes, got dressed and sat down to a bowl of Reese's Puffs cereal.
"He made straight A's last year," beaming dad Michael Gready said, noting that all those perfect 100 papers he was saving were burned in the fire. "He just learns so easy."
Gready, 57, a service technician at the Bethesda Boys Ranch in Mounds, spent 18 years building what became a sprawling home that he shared with his son on Kennyville Road.
The driveway and mailbox are the same, but little else is.
The home was reduced to ash and rubble on the afternoon of Aug. 4.
Gready saved two four-wheelers, a riding lawn mower, a chain saw and a tarantula, but they had to let go the six parakeets that Austin got for his birthday.
They also left behind two large aquariums full of fish.
Father and son missed the first reign of terror on Aug. 3 when hundreds of residents throughout Mannford, Olive and Drumright were evacuated.
But the fire, or the devil as Gready said, came raging back the next day. At 2 p.m. they were evacuated.
"I said, 'Oh my God, son. Go to your room and pull out what you want most,' " Michael Gready said.
Austin came back with a bag of balls and a baseball bat.
Gready said he asked his son to go back, thinking he might pick something more valuable. Austin came back with another ball.
By 3 p.m. their home was gone.
The fire seemed to pick and choose which house it engulfed. Gready said it was like a fire storm instead of a brush fire.
"It traveled across the tops of the trees sucking the fuel out of the trees," he said. "Then the wind would push it down like turning the wick of a candle."
Austin said he would miss his winter coats, his bedroom and his TV.
One thing that won't be different is that Austin and his dad will still do a lot of things together.
"I took him to Branson," the father said. "We rode the helicopter. I lost that picture."
Gready is also a Harley Davidson rider, and Austin has his own gear.
"We ride the Harley all the time," Gready said. "He doesn't like anyone to cuss. If they do, he'll say, 'Please, there's a kid in here.' "
As Austin walked into the school, the air still smelled of smoke.
His smiling teacher, Jennifer Morrow, was waiting for him when he arrived at his locker with his big backpack.
Morrow said that Austin is the only student in her class who lost his home.
"He's a very sweet young man," she said. "Austin's handling this like a trouper. I don't think I could handle it like Austin is."
Five staff members in the district lost their homes: a teacher, a bus driver, a cook, a teacher's aide and an office aide.
The teacher is Jamie Kleven, who seemed to be more focused on her first-grade students and their readiness for reading than she was on her personal losses Thursday morning.
"Do you know where your chair is, honey?" Kleven said. "It's so quiet - give them a week."
Kleven said that the routine of school and regular meals will be good for students going through the loss of their home and belongings.
Tulsa County drought conditions worsen
Southern Tulsa County went from extreme to exceptional drought.
The U.S. Drought Monitor released its weekly drought map Thursday, showing the southern half of Tulsa County under D4 for exceptional drought, while northern Tulsa County remains D3 for extreme drought.
Almost 40 percent of Oklahoma is classified as D4 this week, as high temperatures and low rainfall continue statewide.
"This is as bad as we've seen in the drought monitor era," said Gary McManus, Oklahoma Climatological Survey associate state climatologist. The drought monitor started in 1999.
The good news is that according to the National Weather Service, rain chances are forecast through Saturday.
However, McManus said that significant improvement in the state's drought conditions will require several 1-2-inch rainfall events, a week or two apart, over the course of a few months.
For the latest local forecast information, check tulsaworld.com/weather
- ALTHEA PETERSON World Staff Writer
Original Print Headline: Restoring a routine
Susan Hylton 918-581-8381
Austin Gready walks to the bus stop with his burned-down home in the background as he starts back to school Thursday in Mannford. Austin, whostarted second grade, lost his home to a wildfire. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Austin Gready, 7, said he would miss his winter coats, his bedroom and his TV — all of which were lost in the fire. From his room, he saved a baseball bat and a few balls. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Michael Gready helps his son Austin Gready get his shoes on for the first day of school on Thursday in the camper where they live. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Austin Gready makes his way into the classroom after stopping at his locker. Austin is the only student in his class who lost a home, according to his teacher, Jennifer Morrow. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World