When I was 11 years old, the coolest thing to do on the weekends was play a game called “Manhunt” in the backwoods in Springs. The game was basically a team-based version of hide-and-seek in the woods. Your team would win based on how long you could hold out in the woods before being caught, and the best players, of course, were always the hardest to find. This one game, for whatever reason, dictated the entire social activity of most grade-school boys in Springs during the 1990s. And I still remember vividly one of the most terrifying games of Manhunt I ever played.
About 10 of my friends showed up at my father’s house in East Hampton, one of whom was Dash Marder—who at the time I thought was probably the coolest guy on the face of the earth, based almost entirely on his cool name and reputation as an athlete, as well as the fact that nearly every girl in school was madly in love with him.
At about 11 o’clock at night, the game was on, and out into the darkness went Dash Marder, along with a group of other Springs kids from that generation. I remember how amazing the starlight was that night. No cell phones, no walkie-talkies, no flashlights, just kids in the woods. Hunting one another.
Within 20 minutes I heard a scream in the woods.
“I FOUND LEE!!!! GUYS, LEE IS IN THE SAND PIT!!!”
“JULIAN! I GOT JULIAN!!!”
As the game progressed, we’d either laugh about how stupid of a hiding place somebody had, or admire how clever they were. But on this night in particular the game was getting kind of boring, because Dashiel Marder could not be found. It was like trying to find Rambo. Everyone else on his team had already been caught.
I searched and searched and searched. I was climbing over abandoned concrete foundations, going up massive hills and surveying the landscape from the top of them.
And then, almost hypnotically, I heard the strangest sound. Sort of like an owl or a raven, but it was really close, and my blood pressure increased in fear. I looked up, and way up high in a tree I saw some sort of figure, but I couldn’t see it clearly because moonlight was completely obstructing my vision. Is that? What the hell?
Out of nowhere, Dash dropped down from what I gather was 20 feet above. He fell, in complete stealth, nearly head-first, with his chest hitting my back and the force of his fall knocking me to the ground. It took half a second to figure out what had just happened.
“You alright, Dave?”
To which I replied by laughing my ass off.
That was 20 years ago, and during those 20 years I think I spoke all of 20 sentences with Dash, even though I was around him quite a lot growing up. We worked together at Main Beach and frequently would hang out in the same group as kids. He was just one of those strong, soft-spoken guys. You never really knew his thoughts or emotions. You just knew he was cool when you were around him. All of his family is like that.
Dash, who is brothers with Mica, Silas and Tucker Marder and whose father is Charlie Marder, owner of Marders Landscaping in Bridgehampton, was lost at sea during a world-class spearfishing expedition off the coast of Indonesia nearly two weeks ago, as of this writing. He dove down to hunt for a fish and did not come back up.
He was 30 years old.
The search for him at sea is ongoing. And I don’t think anybody who knew this young man will stop keeping an eye out for him when they look out at the ocean.
I like to think that’s how he would have
Read David’s blog daily at DansHamptons.com.