IN THESE DAYS of uncertainty, one thing has remained certain. Friends are always there for you. My wife and I have welcomed friends, some old, some new, over the past few weeks.

Last week, we either received visits or went out and visited several of our friends. It was sure better than sitting around trying to decide which one of us is driving the other more crazy.

Saturday, we took a drive, a long country drive. Across Highway 70 West we went from Minocqua through Lac du Flambeau through Fifield through Draper and Loretta, all the way to Winter where we visited one of my favorite places, the famed Winter Greenhouse.

Along the way we waved hello to a small gang of friends working in a picked cornfield. Tall, stately and beautiful, we admired a small flock of sandhill cranes. They mostly ignored us, but one of them gave us a welcoming lifting of its beak, much as we humans acknowledge a greeting when our arms are full with a quick upturn of our chins and a nod or two.

Later that day, as I drove past Plum Creek, I greeted my first fawn of the season. A doe pranced across the road. I slowed then, came to a full stop as Bambi followed behind, still tiny and wobbly-legged. The little one kicked up its heels after a fashion and ran to where Mama waited at the edge of the woods. Upon reaching her it turned, looked at me and, I swear, smiled at me and nodded hello/goodbye before wobbling into the woods.

Sunday morning, I discovered we have taken on a new renter; actually a new freeloader at our house. For several years, we have had robins build nests in shrubs and trees at the edge of the driveway, on a basement windowsill and last year, on a rack alongside the basement entry door which holds skis in the winter, and rakes and shovels in the summer.

This year, our feathered friends decided to call a spot in the very corner of our deck their new home. Going out to water flower planters, I discovered Mama had taken up residence. She was off somewhere, but one bright blue egg lay in the bottom of the nest.

Later in the morning, we took a ride to Starrett Lake just a few miles from our house where I intended to throw retrieving dummies for Gordie and Molly. Green, mushy signs of homesteaders were everywhere at the landing and on the short pier.

Nowadays, I throw Molly’s dummy just 10 yards or so out into the lake. Advanced age has taken much strength out of her hindquarters so I keep her retrieves quite short. Gordie could and would swim 3 miles to retrieve his dummy if I could throw it that far.

His duck-bodied dummy flew a good 40 yards out and as he made his first thrashing swim to it, spectators swam out to spectate. A pair of Canada geese stopped a few yards from his dummy and encouraged his retrieve with quiet honks and “harumphs.”

Dedicated retriever that he is, Gordie gave them only a slight nod of recognition, grabbed the dummy and brought it back as fast as he could swim so that he could plunge back into the water as soon as I could throw the thing.

On the way home we greeted another friend. I used to encounter a bear or two or three every summer when I did a lot of bike riding on and off roads, but for probably five years have not seen B’rer Bear. On this excursion we had the pleasure of making an acquaintance with a young guy who strolled across the gravel road about 30 yards ahead of us.

He gave us one look, a sneer and took off running for the brush, not even stopping for a cursory “Hey, how ya do?” About a 150 pounds and still young, he apparently has yet to learn the manners of polite company while exchanging chitchat with friends.

Back home, Mama Robin was on the nest. When she departed upon our arrival I looked and found egg No. 2 had been deposited. In the afternoon, she and Gordie became friends. She sat the nest while her new 85-pound buddy snoozed in the sun 5 feet from her.

As we have been able to for a couple of weeks now, we entertained two other guests Sunday afternoon. Hummingbirds made the rounds of my planters. After two weeks, the hummers still haven’t figured out why they can’t get nectar from C-9 Christmas lights that ring the picture window next to our entrance door or from the brightly colored paper hearts my wife taped on the inside of the window to lighten up the dark days of the past few months.

We take great enjoyment in seeing and greeting all these friends, although one other is welcomed and cursed at the same time. As he has done, and I’m sure his dad, granddad and probably a great-grandpa did ever since we built our house in 1980, a male whippoorwill sings nightly from various places in the woods surrounding our house.

His song can be enchanting, usually welcomed, but at 3 in the morning when he keeps humans awake with it, sometimes annoying. The other night, my awakened wife counted 147 consecutive whippoorwills sung before she was able to doze off again.

These are our friends, all of them, and without them, especially this year, we would be the poorer for their absence.

We treasure them all.