One should never get in the way of a hawk and its prey.
Peggy Jones learned that lesson in a most unwitting way on July 25 as she and her husband were finishing a day of yard work on a six-acre property that they own in Silsbee, Texas, about 100 miles northeast of Houston.
First, in an improbable occurrence, a snake fell from the clear blue sky, wrapping itself tightly around Ms. Jones’s right forearm.
“I immediately screamed and started swinging my arm to shake the snake off,” Ms. Jones, 64, said in an interview. “I was screaming, ‘Jesus, help me, please, Jesus, help me!’”
The snake wrapped itself around her arm more tightly. It hissed and lunged at her face, at times striking her glasses. But then, Ms. Jones realized, the snake, too, was an unwitting victim.
A brown-and-white hawk flying overhead had fumbled and dropped the four-and-a-half-foot-long scaly creature. The hawk quickly joined the fracas, swooping down to wrench its serpentine dinner from Ms. Jones’ arm.
The hawk snatched, scratched and jabbed at her arm “three to four times,” to reclaim its meal, Ms. Jones recalled. Each time, its powerful talons slashed her forearm. At one point, the bird dragged Ms. Jones’s arm up into the air. On the fourth try, it successfully uncoiled the snake and flew away. The “horrific” ordeal, Ms. Jones said, lasted about 15 to 20 seconds, and left her arm scratched, bruised and punctured.
“I looked down at my arm and it was totally covered in blood,” Ms. Jones said.
Wendell Jones, her husband, eventually noticed that his wife was screaming, running in a zigzag pattern and flailing her arms. He promptly helped her into their truck and drove to the hospital. On the way there, he recalled, Ms. Jones was tongue-tied.
“By the time I got to her, she was pretty hysterical,” Mr. Jones, 66, said in an interview. “It took me probably three minutes to actually understand what had happened.”
Mr. Jones said he did not see the attack, but a local news station that came to film the property on Monday captured a video of a hawk he believes to be the same one that attacked his wife.
“He still flies around out there,” Mr. Jones said. “He must live right there.”
At the hospital, Ms. Jones was bandaged and given antibiotics. She discovered that her glasses had chipped and her lenses had a liquid substance that she thought could have been venom from the snake. Doctors said her wounds were not caused by a snake bite, but rather by the hawk’s talons.
Still, after Ms. Jones was released from the hospital that evening, she stayed up all night to make sure that her arm didn’t swell or blacken, symptoms of snake poison. (It didn’t.)
Two weeks later, Ms. Jones still has open wounds and bruises on her forearm. She has received an outpouring of support from strangers around the world on social media, who are praying for her speedy recovery.
Ms. Jones believes that she will physically recover, though she said that she has had recurring nightmares about the episode. She has had trouble eating and sleeping, she said, and at times will scream and yell out for help in her sleep.
Her nightmares vary. Some are a rehash of the encounter, Ms. Jones said, while others are stranger.
“Sometimes I’m in a room and there’s snakes on the wall and snakes on the ceiling and snakes all over the floor,” she said.
Mr. Jones said the nightmares were likely the result of the snake and hawk encounter, combined with an earlier misfortune: Two years ago, his wife was bitten by a venomous snake while working on another property in Silsbee. “She’s snake-wary now,” he said. “I’m pretty sure she’ll be frightened of anything that looks or moves like a snake.”
Still, Ms. Jones believes she is fortunate despite what many of her newfound supporters tell her.
“I consider myself to be the luckiest person alive,” she said. “I was attacked by a snake and a hawk and I lived to tell about it.”