All Peggy and Wendell Jones wanted was to end their day of yard work in Texas’ triple-digit summer heat by getting cleaned up and going to the casino.
The couple – married 45 years next week – routinely splits up the three-hour job of mowing the lawn of an investment property in Silsbee, north of Beaumont, that’s been in the family since 1850, they told CNN.
The work is nothing out of the ordinary.
It’s what happened while they were at it last month – an encounter that left them at a hospital dressing blood-soaked wounds – that now has them pressing pause.
Peggy was riding a mower in the back of the property, far from the trees that line it, when “all of a sudden, out of the clear blue sky, a snake fell … and landed on my arm,” the 64-year-old recalled.
There was no mistaking it: The reptile was dark-colored and 4 1/2 feet long, she estimated.
It had fallen from nowhere and clutched her right arm.
And it wouldn’t let go.
“I immediately began thrusting my arm, trying to knock the snake off,” she said. “And as I was thrusting my arm, the snake just wrapped around my arm – and he started striking at my face.”
The more the grandmother of four tried to rip the snake off her, the tighter it would wrap and squeeze around her arm, she said.
She screamed and cried for help as the tractor kept crawling along beneath her.
Still, the snake wouldn’t let go.
Wendell, 66, was mowing the front of their property. The sound of his own tractor and the traffic on the nearby highway filled the space between them, and that’s how Peggy said she knew:
She was effectively alone.
Then, just when she thought the snake might bite her – injecting her with fatal venom and ushering in the end of her life – a brown and white hawk swooped down and tried to clench it.
But the serpent would not let go of Peggy’s arm.
Its grip was so tight that when the hawk grabbed it, Peggy’s entire arm jerked up in the air with the attempt.
The hawk tried again and again, its wings flapping in her face with each try, distorting her view of what was happening right in front of her.
All the while, the tractor kept mowing, zig-zagging Peggy – and the tug-of-war of nature unfolding upon her body – across the field in an ordeal she called “utter chaos.”
Many times in her life, Peggy had watched this exact same scenario play out in nature: Hawk sets its sights on its prey, swoops in to attack, drops it on a barbed-wire fence, then goes back to claim its prize.
But she never imagined she’d play the role of fence.
Four times, the hawk dove and bobbed at its prize – and at Peggy – before it finally scooped up the reptile and flew off, she said.
Right away, Peggy felt some relief at having been freed.
Then, she looked down.
‘Beyond anything I had ever experienced’
Her right arm was covered in blood. Claw marks. Lacerations. Cuts. Punctures.
“If you’ve ever cut yourself, think about 10 times that pain,” Peggy said. “It’s a pain you can’t describe. … It was beyond anything I had ever experienced.”
Bruises had already formed – and turned black, presumably from the snake’s squeeze.
Peggy, still processing what she had just experienced, kept screaming and yelling.
This time, Wendell heard her.
He ran over.
“She was in hysterics and shock,” he recalled.
“I just rushed her to the truck and headed to the ER,” said Wendell, who was at this point still uncertain of how such a horror had befallen his wife.
“It was probably three minutes before I actually understood what happened to her.”
Doctors in the hospital cleaned and bandaged Peggy’s wounds.
On the lens of her chipped glasses, they found some liquid the Joneses think may have been snake venom, though it was never tested, they told CNN.
The doctors gave her antibiotics and instructions to continue them at home.
Before midnight on July 25, Wendell posted online a short rundown of all his wife had endured that day, ending it: “Thank you for the prayers.”
The couple stayed up that whole night to monitor for any swelling and discoloration from a snake bite – signs Peggy knows well after a venomous snake bit her a few years ago, she said.
Thankfully, none appeared.
‘I consider myself to be pretty tough’
More than two weeks later, Peggy is left with the physical reminder of the chaos, her arm wrapped from elbow to wrist in bandages that have been refreshed from white to neon green to bright pink.
Meanwhile, the ordeal is still living rent-free in her mind as she contemplates how it could have had an entirely different – potentially fatal – ending.
“She’s not sleeping well at all,” Wendell said. “When she finally goes to sleep, I’m usually having to wake her up because she’s dreaming.”
The Joneses are taking extra precautions to ensure Peggy’s wounds stay clean: Any trace of infection could portend a life-threatening turn following a past double knee replacement.
“This is the toughest young lady I’ve ever met in my life,” Wendell said. “She doesn’t worry about pain. She thinks she can do everything, and she pretty much can do everything, so I have to try and keep her slowed down because she’s blow and go.”
“I consider myself to be pretty tough,” added Peggy, “and I’m a survivor.”
As for the casino trip, it will have to wait as the Joneses aren’t making any unnecessary outings until Peggy’s wounds fully heal.