"Manny, if this is gonna happen, it's gonna have to happen very soon," Allan Boyd, our guide, calls from the opposite bank of a five-foot-wide canal, where the water is so black there's no telling how deep it is. With both hands he's gripping the left hind leg of a 200-pound Russian boar sow. Cornered between two cypress, the pig hammers back at the four hunting dogs attacking it. One of them has locked onto its snout. With a vigorous, elliptical sweep of its broad neck and shoulders the sow swings the dog high above its head and slams it savagely onto the cypress roots on the swamp floor. The dog doesn't loosen its grip. This happens four more times, even as the three other dogs tear at the boar's face and ears. Now Boyd is annoyed: "Manny, these dogs are getting hurt. They've been up on her too long."
Struggling for breath, I drag myself onto the bank and up on my knees behind Boyd. The barking, growling, and screeching is loud enough that Boyd must yell to be heard. His body jerks forward when the boar lunges. The scramble of animals just four feet from us rattles my every nerve. When the sow regains its footing in the soupy filth, it stands almost three feet at the shoulder. It is four feet long, coarse black bristles matted with mud. Both dog and pig snarl and whinny at turns, the pig's squeal a unique mix of ferocity and fear.
"Take the knife, Manny," Boyd insists, suddenly concerned for dog and man, gesturing with his chin to an assortment of weapons hanging on his belt above the back pockets of his jeans. I pause.
"Grab the knife!" he commands.
"There are two, Allan!" I bark in a voice several jittery octaves higher than I would have preferred.
"The orange one! Orange, Manny!" Boyd responds. Only at that moment do I notice that Boyd is using my name an awful lot. I wonder if repeating it is a time-tested stratagem: mood control, providing false confidence, panic-proofing – possibly for both of our benefit. I unsnap the scabbard and unsheathe the knife.