Panacea Sykes


The famous old west television series Gunsmoke frequently titled its episodes with the name of the central character or protagonist. Quint-Cident was an example of that when a recently widowed female mistook the amicable behavior of Quint for romantic advances. Examples of other such episodes were Milly, Lacey, Cale, Jenny, Jeb, Kate Heller, and Tobe.  Kathleen Hite probably sometimes felt overwhelmed to come up with meaningful show title.

Panacea was a con woman extraordinaire. She was quite glib and resourceful and an excellent pickpocket in an age were many single women were either con artists or¬†prostitutes. She got to Dodge City Kansas by convincing stage coach driver she was Long Branch Saloon proprietor’s mother when, in fact, she helped to raise Kitty when Kitty’s father succumbed to gambling addiction. So she was able to exploit the two years of rearing she provided Kitty in return for access to poker players and alcohol in the Saloon. She probably became a scamster because she was forced out of her work in a New Orleans gambling house by the deceptive actions of a manipulative man.

Panacea literally means Goddess of good health and remedy. Panacea, the confidence woman, was played by Nellie Burt who gave back all her pilfered items near the end of episode and inveigled a young couple to give her a ride to Pueblo, Colorado west of Dodge City, Kansas at the end of the longest ever running Western series in history. Incidentally, I learned that a reticule was the term for a handbag or attache case where Panacea kept her records.


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