Jim of all trades

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Every Sunday, the “half fast bike group” meets for its weekly ride. Only the weather stopped the troop from riding out for Dallas on Super Bowl Sunday like they did last year.

Jim Beckman knows how to stick with something. He’s ridden out with his friends and his wife Marlene every Sunday for the last quarter-decade, and he has no plans to quit.

In the last 25 years, Beckman may have missed three of those 1,300 Sundays.

“When I tell somebody something then I’m going to do it,” he said.

Like everything else in his life, dependability is just another sort of challenge for Beckman. He believes it’s easy to make a promise, but it’s difficult to build a reputation of dependability.

And Beckman’s never been one for taking the easy road.

He’d rather say no and show up anyway than say yes and go back on his word.

Beckman has spent a third of his Sundays on a bicycle and the rest of the time has done pretty much everything else.

He has been an engineer, a contractor, an artist and, most recently, a novelist.

As a result of his forays into art, Beckman is the owner of 4-foot tall Camel box, an oversized box of Premium saltine crackers and an end table in the shape of a Vienna sausage can.

In the entryway at Beckman’s Medford Court home, the first thing visitors see was a stack of Swastika-printed cards. Cards that displayed the cover of his new novel.

The cover of “Amour et Vengeance”, a French phrase meaning “love and vengeance,” features the silhouette of a woman with a pistol backed by the Nazi flag.

Beckman admitted that he is impatient and had taken on so many different roles because he gets bored, but he claims he doesn’t know how to stop until he has finished something. And if he says he’ll do something, it’ll be done.

And, he says, he has never liked to do anything anyone else had done.

He’s a 74-year-old sculptor-engineer-contractor-portrait artist who has just started selling his first novel.

The inspiration for his novel came from a story he heard about French resistance fighters during World War II. He thought of the difficult choices resistance fighters faced and how they would live with the outcome.

Specifically, he was touched by a story in which resistance fighters captured German soldiers with the intent to turn them over to the Americans. Unfortunately, the Americans didn’t get there fast enough.

The Frenchman executed the five German soldiers for fear of retribution should they escape. Jim said he felt for the Frenchman. They had to choose to kill five young soldiers who had surrendered to them in order to protect themselves and their families.

In his new novel, the main character is a woman who he compares to the heroine of Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

“My heroine, she’s different from that woman, But I made her strong and daring and almost to the point of viciousness,”

Beckman didn’t have any relatives who fought in the war, but he chose World War II as a backdrop because he’s a history buff and he felt Americans enjoy reading about that war more than other wars because of the associations they make.

“For Americans, it’s a fun war to read about because it’s a story of victories,” Beckman said. “Whereas for some reason I don’t like to read about Vietnam because it’s a story of losses and lots of deaths and a result that was not beneficial to us.”

He has begun work on his second novel, which Marlene encouraged him to write.

The next novel also involves the French Resistance, but this time follows the story of a bomber shot down over France during the war who fights for the resistance and then, after leaving for London, returns 30 years later to find a mysterious woman he met during his time there.

Eventually, Beckman will need a new hobby. But for now he’s writing, blogging and learning to use Facebook and Twitter in order to promote his books.

“If I’m unsuccessful, I’ll probably go into something else, you know, like brain surgery,” Beckman joked.

And he would do it as the acceptance of a challenge. Just to see if he could do it, and do it better.

His writing teacher, Carmen Goldthwaite, said she and the other students in his writing class call him a Renaissance man. He has done everything, and he’s done each of those things better than many people could hope to do one thing.

He admitted that he was impatient and had taken on so many different roles because he gets bored, but Beckman doesn’t know how to stop until he’s finished something. And if he says he’ll do something, you can bet it’ll be done.

Goldthwaite describes Beckman as a committed, highly intelligent person whom she called a “quick study.”

She said she believes the level of intelligence at which Beckman operates contributes to his drive to do everything bigger and better than those before him.

“I’m a fan as you can tell,” she said.

Goldthwaite also said that Beckman is a storyteller, a trait she feels is apparent in his writing.

For Goldthwaite, it seems that everything Beckman does is something he does well, something she attributes to his being “insatiably enthusiastic and curious.”
Marlene joked that the only thing her husband ever failed at was humility.

Beckman returned fire.

“It’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way,” he said.

Beckman even does retirement bigger than his peers.

He said he never wanted to be one of those retirees who missed work because he was bored. So he got to work sculpting, picked up the guitar again and started taking on anything that struck his fancy.

“I can’t sit around without something to do,” he said.

Beckman spent many years running a construction business in Fort Worth before retiring and beginning his life as Jim Beckman the artist in 2000.

He said he decided to retire at that time because he was tired of fighting for construction jobs, and real estate investments would allow him to retire.

After spending years in the construction business, Beckman was used to working with his hands, he said. He had built a working electric car from plans he found in a magazine, constructing the body out of fiberglass, so sculpting and constructing things seemed a natural leap for him.

“I’m not a good engineer because I’m too impatient, too willing to cut corners,” he said.

He spent some years producing oversized objects like the giant Oreo that now serves as a coffee table, steel sculptures, cut glass and cancelled stamp portraits and some rather risqué lamps that make the famous leg lamp from the classic movie “A Christmas Story” look rather tame.

“I get bored easily, and if I don’t have something new and interesting to work on I start doing something else,” Beckman said.

“I can’t sit around without something to do,” he said.

Perhaps Jack could have mastered a few more trades if he’d been named “Jim.”

Oh, and he’s also written a movie script.

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