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Miroslav Vodsedálek

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This angel holding a "Gloria in Excelis" banner is just one example of the remarkable carving and painting of Miroslav's Králíki crib figures.

(Top) Many years ago, a young boy smiles in front a crib. (Bottom) Did he ever dream that, one day, he'd be its proud caretaker, welcoming visitors who've come to see it from across the sea? — Miroslav Vodsedálek then and now.
It's one thing to expect a museum-quality mechanical nativity in a museum, but in someone's front parlor? That's a different story. But there it is, occupying most of a room, the proud pocession of its present owner who's eager to share his family heirloom with you…

Milan parks his car outside a nondescript house and says hello to a man who's on is knees working on his motorcycle. You have no clue that, besides being an amateur mechanic and bus driver he's also the caretaker of a mechanical wonder.

Your new friend, Miroslav VodseÄŹálek, is wearing blue jeans and a green-and-gold T-shirt, gets up, shakes hands with his drop-in company, and ushers you inside.

You follow him down a corridor, take a left turn, stop as he opens a door, and enter a white room with a curved, natural wood ceiling.

Miroslav draws the heavy orange curtains covering the two windows—and there it is! The very mechanical crib Judy Davis had described to you! "You won't believe your eyes," you remember her as saying then. "You have to go see it for yourself!"

It really does occupy most of the room, like a huge model railroad set that reaches to the ceiling. It sits on a 90-degree platform draped with burlap and accented with fake Christmas garland. From a green-painted piece of wood at top bearing the inscription "Veselé Vánoce", a tiny star points to the scene below.

It's hard to appreciate the beauty of a nativity of this scale from a postcard-size photo. Only with a closeup, such as this of a sleeping man and an angel, do you realize the fineness of detail.
And what a remarkable scene it is, a world-in miniature, if you will, of that of František (Francis) Vodsedálek, whose portrait hangs on the wall (see photo at left).

He was the uncle of the present owner, and a soldier in WWI. Which explains all the soldiers and their barracks that he carved! When a switch is flipped they execute their maneuvers as their leader, astride his horse, commands them with an outstretched arm holding a sword.

But it isn't just the soldiers that come to life. Nearby, Králíki figures begin to move as well: two woodworkers are sewing a tree trunk in front of a log cabin, and, undisturbed, before them a band strikes up a tune. Are they serenading the Baby who is being gently rocked by two angels under an arch of a red-roofed château?

While the angels rock, others have more mundane concerns: there, a butcher is gutting a pig (!), while his companion is busy chopping a huge piece of meat with a cleaver. Next door, in the bakery, a man is rolling a huge roll of bread while another turns in circles stirring his flour mixture.

What is that boom? Two rams butting their heads, of course. And look at that sheep, on hind legs, eating from a bucket offered by a shepherd. Another sheep is drinking from a pale as a shepherdess draws on the handle of a pump to refill it.

The water wheel of a mill turns against a piece of celophane that is draped over it. As the light hits it you'd swear there's water here flowing as well. That's when the miller appears out of one door carrying a bag of flour and disappears in the other.

A woman, holding a rope, is helping a man pull a wheel barrel uphill, only to stumble when she gets there and the whole merry bunch tumbles back down.

Don't bet that these two rams are giving up their contest anytime soon.
And there, almost hidden by a large boulder, a young man and a young woman hold hands and bend toward each other to share a kiss.

Two farmers, scythes at the ready, are cutting hay, and a farm woman is pounding butter.

An angel turns to two woodsmen and points towards the star as one raises his arm to shield his eyes from its bright light.

A monk rings a bell. Three hermits in a cave pray and lower their heads.

Episodes that could be scripted by a sitcom writer play themselves over and over—like summer reruns. Here, a young boy mischieviously raps on the front door and disappears before the owner opens it.

Episodes that could be scripted by a sitcom writer play themselves over and over—like summer reruns. Here, a young boy mischieviously raps on the front door and disappears before the owner opens it.
But among all of the wonderful episodes depicted in this charming mechanical crib, your absolute favorite has got to be the one unfolding at upper left: young boy raps twice on the red door of a thatched cottage, only to quickly disappear before it opens and a grumpy-looking old man holding a stick appears. This scenario in, itself, would bring a smile on your face. But, wait. There's an added bonus: his wife now opens the window to see what is the matter!

The present owner keeps a guest book and a photo of himself as a child taken in front of this crib. But all the years haven't dulled his enthusiasm for this most unusual of heirlooms. Like a modern-day Oz, he invites you behind the curtain, and your astonishment widens. All those moving parts, everyone one of them made from scratch! A metal shaft turns four wheels, and they, in turn, transfer motion to others with black cords.

The nuts and bolts of the mechanical nativity, its shafts, wheels, and pulleys that give it motion.
So many levers, so many cams, and the ever-present sound of ram heads going kaboom!

Milan's friend stands proudly by. You ask, what does he think when he comes into this room?

"After a short conversation Milan says, "He likes this crib very much. He loves coming here. The crib was in boxes for many years. A few years ago he started putting it together for Christmas." Can you imagine? All those wheels and cords? "But five years ago he created this permament display in this room of his home."

Many years ago, a young boy smiles in front a crib. Did he ever dream that, one day, he'd be its proud caretaker, showing it off to visitors from across the sea?—Miroslav Vodsedálek, Creche Enthusiast, then and now.




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