Union Democrat staff

As befits what Nat King Cole called "those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer," this particular edition of Bravos and Barbs is light on the negative.

Yes, some imaginative misanthrope did work up the energy to pilfer a painted frog from in front of the Sierra Nevada Adventure Co.'s Murphys store. And when you mess around with Calaveras County's beloved mascot, you certainly deserve a barb - and maybe a few nights in jail.

Only our California lawmakers, already well perforated, join the frog filchers on this summer's barb list.

What did they do this time? While the rest of us endure layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts and shorter hours, the Legislature is soldiering through the recession by hiring more staff members.

Between January and July, records show, the Assembly and Senate have together hired 336 new employees at a cost of $14.4 million a year. Amid a budget crisis? What planet are these guys living on?

But enough with the negative. We have more than a few handshakes and pats on the back to dispense. Without further ado, summer's bravos:

• For the more than 1,300 firefighters and support personnel who helped contain the potentially dangerous, 6,000-acre Knight Fire, which burned in the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River 10 miles north of Twain Harte, before it claimed homes or lives.

• For Ty Wivell, who last week retired from the Tuolumne County Planning Commission after 13 years. A lifelong rancher and county native, Wivell was an eloquent spokesman for agriculture during his tenure on the commission. "He's a good example of the kind of citizen we need," Supervisor Paulo Maffei observed. "One who participates."

• For Billie Westernoff, who has retired after 18 years as director of Calaveras County's Resource Connection Food Bank. Congrats also go to Jeannie Hayward, who is taking over for Westernoff. Hayward has an example to follow: Westernoff has dedicated her life to fighting hunger not only in the Mother Lode but, through conferences in Sacramento and Washington, on the state and national levels as well.

• For the hugely successful Tuolumne Aquatic Masters and Coach Patti Scott-Baier, who took an incredible 12 gold medals and set five national records at this month's National Senior Games swim meet at the Stanford University Pool.

• For the California Grizzlies Junior Service Rifle Team, which made history at Camp Perry, Ohio, by becoming the first junior team to win the National Trophy Infantry Team Match - otherwise known as the Rattle Battle or the World Series of competitive shooting. Three young Tuolumne County marksmen, Chad Kurgan, David Bahten and Anthony Henderson, were among the team's stars.

• For Sonora High School graduate Kendra Brennan, an aspiring public lands and ranching rights advocate, who won a $15,000 California Farm Bureau scholarship. The Rustici Livestock and Rangeland Scholarship was awarded after Brennan applied, submitted an essay and underwent an interview. She will attend West Valley Community College this fall and hopes to later transfer to Cal Poly and ultimately become a land-rights attorney.

• For Jamie Smith, whose Sonora High senior project is to bring Soap Box Derby competition - which in its 1930s and '40s heyday in Sonora was a major community event that drew crowds of thousands to Washington Street - to Tuolumne. Under Smith's ambitious plan, a qualifying derby race would be held in conjunction with the Lumber Jubilee in June 2010.

• For mounted members of the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team, who last week found a 7-year-old Modesto boy who wandered away from his parents while hiking near Pinecrest, got lost and spent the night in the forest. Thanks also go to the other agencies who helped in the successful search.