July 13th, 2006 by The Lexington Herald-Leader
CBERTRAM@HERALD-LEADER.COM
JGUMBRECHT@HERALD-LEADER.COM

Ask Jim Cassell about his little pocket of Clark County -- to call it a town would be generous -- and he'll suggest you talk to the neighbors.

He's new to the area, he explains. His family has lived here only 12 years.

They bought the house from Archie next door, but he's not answering the door. Mrs. Griggs seems to own half of Rightangle, so she'd be a good one to ask, but she's not home either. So, Cassell will sit on his front porch and tell you all that he knows, all that he can see from living at the exact point that makes Rightangle a right angle: They built a pretty white house where a spur off Ky. 974 meets a straight stretch of Rightangle Road, forming a near-perfect 90 degrees.

In fact, the angular-sounding speck on the map is a slice of curvy road, the kind of hilly, winding surface that will make you wish you'd left your stomach back in Winchester. Some say the name came from the Masons -- the Right Angle Lodge is just down the road -- but as far as the residents are concerned, it's named for the geography.

From their angle, the Cassells can see all the coming and going. In the evening, they'll watch as a tractor churns down the road with their few neighbors creeping behind it, experiencing the closest thing you'll find to road rage on 974.

Sometimes, the Cassells know them by their cars, if not their names.

"They'll honk the horn, we'll wave, then look at each other and say, 'Who was that?'" says Jim Cassell, 57.

Not to worry, of course -- if there's an unknown visitor, you can bet someone will come over later to talk about it.

The Cassells didn't come from this kind of neighborhood. Jim grew up in West Virginia but met his wife, Jill, and raised his family in Baltimore. A while back, they decided to head to some place quieter. They scouted land in Kentucky for more than a year, seeking country life for him and city water for her. They finally found it on the little stretch a few miles from Ky. 89, where a dairy farmer had two houses for sale. Whichever one the Cassells didn't want, the farmer would keep. (That'd be Archie, the fellow who wasn't home.)

They intended to gut the house but ended up tearing down all but one wall. They rebuilt to their liking, "everything she wanted," Jim says with a smile that all husbands who've built houses recognize.

Son Jimmy Cassell, 25, wasn't so excited about the move.

The father misses one thing from Maryland: seafood. Crab cakes, specifically.

But the son misses pizza, the greasy kind. He misses malls, he says, "not to sound too much like a teen-age girl." He also misses clubs, recreation areas and movie theaters. And Bass Pro Shops, so big "you could fit every house on this street in it."

But even for him, Rightangle Road (or Right Angle Road, depending which entrance you take and which sign you're looking at) is home.

Jimmy now lives in Lexington with his wife, but the young couple return to stay in his old room every few weeks.

As a kid, he helped build this house.

He jokes about the time a black Trans Am swept through the front lawn, waking the whole neighborhood.

He shares how heartbroken the community felt when a fire destroyed Fox's, the now-rebuilt store, restaurant, hangout and social center down the road.

He heard how the neighbors took notice of the candle burning in his window while he served with the Army in Iraq. He remembers the banner waving when he returned in 2004: "Welcome Home Sgt. Cassell."

Home, home, home. This is home, the father and son say. They'll be the new ones in town until someone else moves in, but they don't worry about being old or new or anything else.

"It's a sigh of relief, coming over that hill," Jimmy says of their little dip in the road. "It's just contentment."

It's home when there's always something to be done, but you don't mind doing it, Jim says, happily taking three days to mow the lawn, instead of the 20 minutes it used to cost him.

Home, when you know you're not going to move. (Jim points out that they've got burial plots in Baltimore. "That'll be the last time we'll move," he says, then pauses. "Nah. We'll trade them in.")

Home, when you can't keep a dog alive -- "Two cars will pass in the night, and one will hit it," Jim says, not really joking -- but you can watch the deer.

Those are the best moments in Rightangle, the father and son say, especially when the autumn leaves and the wild sweet peas are your backdrop.

And when it's quiet. They all love the quiet.

Oh, and the sun. The whole family will watch in awe when it rises in one bank of windows and sets in another. It bounces color throughout the pretty white house, hitting the glass at just the right angle.

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