Who in Whoville called SHARK? Who called the cops? Who tipped off the cockfighters? Who wants to know?
PINE KNOT, Kentucky––Whoville, the primary setting of the 1957 Dr. Suess fable How The Grinch Stole Christmas, huddled beneath the abandoned Star Studying Tower on Mount Crumpit, might almost have been modeled on the poverty-stricken former coal mining towns of Kentucky, cowering under slag heaps.
But some of the men in the former mining towns, whose pot bellies and scraggly beards make them half-resemble Santa Claus, get their kicks at Christmas not by stuffing coal into children’s stockings, though they might do that too, but by pitting gamecocks against each other and gambling on outcome.
Drugs, alcohol, & chicken poop
The gamecocks are often raised with more care than any of the cockfighters’ own children, many of them addicted to drugs and alcohol at an early age. Except for steroids, the gamecocks are not introduced to drugs until fight day.
Even before drugging, the gamecocks get more attention than any of the chickens and turkeys now factory-farmed in the long aluminum-clad barns that throughout Appalachia long since replaced mining as the chief source of employment––at least before “ventilation shutdown” to slowly suffocate millions of poultry in response to outbreaks of the H5N1 avian influenza crippled that industry too.
The companies are still making money, but the minimum wage workers are often experiencing pre-Christmas layoffs.
“The pit is called Honest Abe’s”
“There is a very large cockfight tonight in McCreary County, Kentucky,” Showing Animals Respect & Kindness [SHARK] advised supporters via social media on December 17, 2022.
“The pit is called Honest Abe’s,” SHARK continued, “which is interesting, as there is nothing honest about cockfighting, or the criminals involved,” including the calumny often recited by cockfighters that Abraham Lincoln––who had a well-known lifelong aversion to blood sports––was ever either a cockfighter or a cockfighting judge.
Thomas F. Schwartz of the Abraham Lincoln Society in 2003 reported that the only support for this claim was that Lincoln once made passing reference to a cowardly rooster in discussing the performance of General George B. MacClellan.
Playing the Grinch
Combatting illegal cockfighting in Appalachia since 2019, with support from the Humane Farming Association, SHARK had already exposed many cockfighting derbies in McCreary County, including at Honest Abe’s, but local law enforcement has typically shown less interest in busting them than the Grinch had in celebrating Christmas with the Whos of Whoville.
Deciding to play the Grinch himself, “SHARK president Steve Hindi called Kentucky State Police Post 11 this morning and advised them of the illegal event,” the December 17, 2022 alert continued, “but no action has been taken, even though Steve followed up with another call over an hour ago.”
Honest Abe’s cockpit “appears to have the protection of the local sheriff and state police,” Hindi alleged. “The local sheriff absolutely will not return our calls, and the state police have protected the operation when we were there, making certain that we could do nothing to interfere with the illegal activity.”
Who done it?
Who responded? Who tipped off the cockfighters that the Grinch was coming, perhaps with badges and warrants?
“Thank you for calling and shutting down the active cockfight at Honest Abe’s tonight!” SHARK emailed and posted a few hours later.
“The cockfighters got word that law enforcement was on their way to their location and they flew out of there like they were on fire,” SHARK exulted. “Hundreds of roosters’ lives were saved tonight!
“For those who didn’t get a chance to call,” SHARK promised, “there will be plenty more opportunities to save lives. This is the beginning of the cockfighting season. The roosters will need a lot more phone calls from all of you to shut down these fights going forward.
The Grinch will be back––& not to party
“This was their annual Christmas fight,” Hindi the Grinch said, “and it is one of their biggest fights of the year! A lot of money was lost tonight by the cockfighters.
“SHARK will follow-up and meet with the commander of Post 11,” Hindi added, “to discuss how the cockfighters knew to flee and why no arrests were made. We will update you as soon as this is done.”
In the Dr. Suess version of the Grinch story, the Grinch returned to Whoville to celebrate Christmas as did the Whos of Whoville.
In the SHARK version, the Grinch will be back every time the celebrations of cockfighting resume.
$95,000 fine for namesake of bank robber
Cockfighters around Kentucky were already listening, not for reindeer or Max or the Grinch’s dog Max on their rooftops, but for the almost inaudible hum of the SHARK drones, after the December 15, 2022 sentencing of alleged cockfighting kingpin Millard Oscar Hubbard, brought to justice with substantial SHARK help.
The name Millard Oscar Hubbard was already well-known to generations of police for more than 50 years before the convicted cockfighter, 73, was indicted by a federal grand jury in London, Kentucky, on February 24, 2022.
A previous Millard Oscar Hubbard, 22 when the cockfighter was born, was sent to prison in 1962 for bank robbery, escaped in 1976, and made the FBI “10 Most Wanted” list after robbing banks in five states.
Teacher & church stalwart was dope dealer
That Millard Oscar Hubbard, whose reputed hideout on Pine Mountain, Kentucky, was two miles from the Pinemountain Game Club in Big Laurel, was wounded in a shootout with the FBI and recaptured in Lexington, Kentucky, in October 1977. He died in 1984.
How that Millard Oscar Hubbard came to share his name with the Millard Oscar Hubbard who was sentenced on December 15, 2022 for running a cockpit is unclear.
What is clear, according to sentencing documents, is that the convicted cockpit operator is a former teacher at the Goose Rock Elementary School, athletic coach, school bus driver, and member of the Lyttleton Baptist Church, who made a great pretense of religiosity for decades while actively participating in organized crime.
Hubbard in 2005 pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute 300 pounds of marijuana and was sentenced to serve 32 months in prison.
Owned the Riverside cockpit
Hubbard had also promoted cockfights since 2005, according to the prosecution in the most recent case involving him.
“Hubbard owned a cockfighting venue in Clay County called Riverside,” summarized Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader, “which had stadium-style seating, storage areas for roosters, several fighting pits, and a concession stand, according to court records. Hubbard operated the venue with help from Timothy Sizemore, who also worked at the Blackberry pit in Pike County, according to court records.
“The investigation showed that Hubbard collected the entry fees at Riverside while Sizemore coordinated the fights, including hiring referees and matching the roosters.
“Hubbard and Sizemore split the money, and also split the proceeds from the concession stand after paying workers, according to a sentencing memorandum from Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Mattingly Williams.
“In one example cited in a plea deal Sizemore signed, the Blackberry pit hosted an event in June 2012 with more than 50 roosters entered and a purse of about $42,000,” Estep added.
Pleading guilty to conspiracy, Hubbard was fined $95,000, and was sentenced to serve 12 months and a day in jail, followed by six months on home detention.
Continued Estep, “Hubbard sold the pit to another man in November 2019. He told the buyer he could make $3,000 to $4,000 a week running the venue, according to the sentencing memo.”
Clay County judge-executive John W. Johnson and Manchester mayor Jim Ed Garrison wrote letters to U.S. District Judge Claria Horn Boom asking that Hubbard receive lenient sentencing.
More cases coming
Hubbard was only one of 13 Kentucky cockfighters who were federally indicted in early 2022 after extensive multi-year SHARK investigations.
SHARK investigations also contributed to the cases that recently brought the plea bargained sentencing of seven members of the Easterling family, of Verbena, Alabama, on cockfighting-related charges.