Roadside springs were once a thing here in the mountains.

You might be in the middle of nowhere or you might be on a busy four-lane when you noticed a pipe sticking out of a bank, water gushing out.

Seems kind of alien these days, but it was there for the taking. There was one spring on Cowee Mountain that almost always had a car or two parked by it, people with jugs in hand filling up. I drank from it a time or two, and it was fine water. I imagine some of the people slaking their thirst were tourists parched from hours on the road. But I also recognized local folks filled up an empty milk jug or two.

I got to thinking about spring water when, of all things, I was perusing an article about campaign spending. The incident that came to mind was many, many years ago, when I saw a local politician approach a fellow whose land I was helping clear at the time. He handed him a pint of what appeared to be spring water, they shook hands, and the politician moved on to his next call.

Now, as there was a tasty spring piping out not 100 yards from where this transaction went down, and a pint of spring water wouldn’t go very far on such a hot day, I was perplexed. Was “gifting” water some new fad? Was the canning jar it was in a keepsake or something? Was...

...And then it hit me: That wasn’t spring water in that jar at all. That there was something else entirely.

That there was what made Popcorn Sutton famous.

More to the point, that there was campaign spending a few decades ago.

It’s the time in the cycle when the glossy fliers start arriving in the mail, saying a person you thought was OK or probably haven’t spent time thinking about at all is a scourge on The Republic, someone who, if elected, will surely bring pestilence and plague o’er the land.

It’s little wonder people get so upset during elections. And before. And after.

A good bit of the time you can’t even tell who’s behind the junk filling up your mailbox. A lot of time if you can run down the source – something that’s getting harder to do all the time – it turns out the mailing comes from some faraway person or organization that likely couldn’t tell the difference between Tuckaseigee and Turtle Wax.

So, I have a proposal.

In the interest of keeping us all sane, I say instead of people with too much money and time on their hands hiring consultants to figure out what politicians they can buy and then more consultants to design ads to make us upset, angry and frightened enough to head to the polls, let’s cut out the middle man (or men. Or women).

For every $10,000 donated to pay down the national debt, give those people one extra vote.

And take away their ability to fund candidates or ad campaigns.

Hear me out; I see a few advantages here. For one, if Daddy Warbucks parts with a million or billion here or there, he’ll have plenty of extra votes, possibly enough to sway a county or perhaps state judicial election.

However, the damage would be localized. Instead of somebody helicoptering in and showering bucks on a lunatic candidate running in a distant state, they’d only be soiling their own bed by casting extra votes for their own lunatics.

Secondly, you’d be able to watch a ball game, turn on the radio or walk back from the mailbox in peace.

And the debt could disappear overnight.

Now, such blatant graft might remind some folks of the bad old days.

Seems healthier to me. Sure, there was always a chance the intended voter might go blind if the candidate happened upon a bad batch of … um, spring water.

But honestly, even a pint of poisonous get-out-the-vote was probably less toxic that what we’re being exposed to these days.

Buchanan is editor of The Sylva Herald.