Huynh Van Tho, 54, whose nickname is Thao ‘seo’ (scar), is a special fisherman in Tam Giang fishing village, Nui Thanh District, Quang Nam Province. Although his legs do not work like able-bodied people, he makes fishing trips every day to Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes.
After a fishing trip, instead of stepping out of the boat, he is carried by his friends on their backs.
Losing his legs
No one in Tam Giang Village knows the real name of Thao as he has been called Thao ‘seo’ since he was a 12-year-old kid.
The nickname changed his life forever and helps him know the kind heart of the fishermen who work with him.
An accident caused him to lose the use of his legs.
His father was a soldier. After 1975 when the war ended in Vietnam, his father was responsible for collecting leftover bullets and bombs.
Unfortunately, two of his sons played with one of the bullets, making it explode.
|A big scar on Huynh Van Tho’s foot caused by a falling pot of boiling rice. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre
The bullet got through and left a big hole in his back. The 12-year-old boy had to be in the hospital for treatment for three months.
When Thao recovered, he realized that his legs could not move anymore. He had to walk with a pair of crutches.
Day by day, he witnessed the contraction of his legs.
“The bullet left a small hole on my belly but a big one on my back. I thought I was dead,” Thao said while showing his scar as big as a hand.
“When I first knew that my legs could not move, I cried so much. But then, I accepted my situation and practiced walking.”
His house was near An Hoa fishing port where giant boats returned full of fish and squid caught in Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.
If the accident had not happened, he would have become a fisherman when he was 15 years old, Thao shared.
At the age of 18, Thao traveled to the southern province of Dong Nai to earn a living.
He did everything for a living, from mowing the lawn in rubber tree plantations to washing dishes at eateries.
But there, he met his wife, Hoang Thi Hue, who was attracted to the hard-working and kind man.
The couple lives in Thao’s hometown.
Finding his sea legs
Thao ‘seo’ is now the leader on QNa-91417 boat. Nguyen Thanh Tung, the owner of the boat, said, “Thao is a special fisherman, a good worker, and a leader on the boat.”
To survive on the big sea, Thao had to put more effort into his work, three to four times more than able-bodied people.
He and his wife returned to his hometown when they welcomed their first child. Thao was 28 years old at that time.
His wife found a job in a clothing mill while Thao had not yet found a stable one. Fortunately, a boat owner, Huynh Van Lieu, asked Thao to work for him.
“Lieu was the first boat owner to hire a disabled person like me. I was thankful for that,” said Thao.
On the boat of Huynh Van Lieu, Thao was in charge of preparing meals for all fishermen.
Although he practiced cooking for a month, everything was more difficult than he thought.
The boat shook because of big waves and strong winds on the sea. Thao struggled to light the fire for cooking but after five minutes, the wind blew out the fire. He was even burned as the boiling rice pot fell on him.
“I was so hurt but I said no word,” Thao reminded himself of his first trip.
Despite all difficulties, Thao was loved by all fishermen on the boat. All were surprised by his willpower.
|Thao is pictured preparing meals for all of the crew. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre
The more fishing trips he joined, the more he grew up. After several years of working for Lieu, Thao changed to another boat owned by Nguyen Thanh Tung, who considers him his brother.
In 2020, Tung bought an old boat and asked Thao to work for him.
Since then, Thao has been a member of Tung’s boat crew. Thao takes care of the meals of 50 people on the boat. He now gets used to big waves and strong winds and is able to prepare the best meals for all of them.