HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana daycare owner who authorities say was severely beaten after she refused to hand over three children to their drunken father said she was holding her own against him, until his girlfriend hit her in the face with a snow shovel.

Francis Joseph Jackson did not have legal custody of his children and was not allowed to have contact with them when authorities say he attacked Martha McClure, owner of Martha's Mini Daycare in Ronan.

McClure said she knew what the consequences would be for keeping the man from his children, who are all under the age of 4.

"I knew he was going to throttle me, he was going to pound me, but he wasn't going to get back in the house," McClure said Wednesday in a phone interview from her daycare.

Jackson, 31, was arrested in Washington state on a warrant charging him with aggravated burglary. He was being transferred to Montana on Thursday. Efforts to find out if he has an attorney were unsuccessful.

Jackson's girlfriend, Tashiana Schlensker, has a warrant out for her arrest for assault with a weapon, Lake County authorities said.

McClure said she and her staff worried that there would be trouble after Jackson was stripped of legal custody.

"We hadn't practiced this," she said, but "we all worked together like a well-oiled machine. I attribute it to the fact that we're all mothers."

Jackson entered the daycare on the afternoon of Oct. 7 and picked up his oldest daughter, McClure said.

"I told him he needed to leave. I reached out for her and she came to me," McClure said.

McClure told her helper to lock herself in another room with the children and call police.

McClure acknowledged she may have said some things to egg Jackson on, like "let's finish this outside."

McClure called 911 as she walked out the door.

"After that, whatever was going to happen was going to happen," she said. "If all else failed, I just had to keep him busy."

The confrontation became physical.

"Until the girlfriend got involved I was doing pretty good, I was holding my own," McClure said.

The girlfriend hit her with the shovel and she lost her hold on Jackson who also hit her, causing her to fall, charging documents said.

"My helper said he hit me again, but I don't remember," McClure said.

The assault left McClure with a broken orbital socket in her left eye, bruising and swelling. She underwent surgery Monday to have a plate inserted under her left eye to support it.

"It could have been so much worse," she said. "He could have picked up the shovel and beat me with it."

Her husband was handling the legal side of things while McClure, who is still dealing with headaches and double vision, returned to her daycare Wednesday to hang out with the kids.

"We all have our happy place, and this is mine," said McClure, who has been a daycare provider for 20 years.

McClure's reaction to last week's assault ranges from matter-of-fact, to occasional fear, to pride in how she and her aides handled the confrontation and hope that Jackson is convicted and severely punished. She is grateful to law enforcement officers and to friends and strangers who have praised her actions and expressed their support for her. But a little humor sneaks in, too.

"It must be pretty humiliating for him that he had to be saved by a girl from another girl," McClure said.