For a moment, a hatchet was buried


GRAPEVINE, Texas -- For a few engaging moments here the other night, the Old stood beside the New. The Past linked with the Future. Venus aligned with Mars. Cosmic cliches ran rampant.

For a few brief moments, Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson stood side by side on the same podium. Signed autographs, even. And all of Cowboys fandom gazed upon them and decided that, verily, this is good.

Draw from it what ye may, as it turns out. Landry still has no plans to go bounding into the franchise's Ring of Honor.

As a matter of fact, no one had even brought up the "R" word until your humble correspondent tossed himself into Tom's path as the former coach headed for the hotel door. Anything new on that Ring of Honor, I intrepidly asked the coach.

"Not that I know of," Landry said.

And so went the ground-breaking, in-depth interview.

The night had been trumpeted, in part, as Landry's first public appearance at a Cowboys-related event since the February 1989 bloody coup. Technically, that is not quite correct. In spring of '89, Landry agreed to return to Texas Stadium one afternoon and coach a lame flag football game between squads of tired and assorted ex-Cowboys and former Redskins.

But, indeed, this was a first. This was the first public caucus of the only two head coaches the franchise has known.

Landry accepted the invitation to help benefit the newly formed Jimmy Johnson Foundation for Children's Charities. In return, proceeds from one of the autographed helmets that were auctioned off last night will go to Landry's favorite cause, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Johnson also has agreed to play in the upcoming FCA benefit golf tournament.

Symbolism, nonetheless, was rampant last night.

"I don't know how he's going to like this," one-time safety Cliff Harris said, shaking his head as he scanned a hotel lobby decorated for the occasion.

"I mean, everything is all so new."

Harris meant the faces. Oh, there were Landry disciples Harris, Roger Staubach, Tom Rafferty and Lee Roy Jordan, along with former line coach Jim Myers. Most of the rest of the crowd, however, sounded in no mood to reminisce much beyond Jan. 31, 1993.

Still, Landry is Landry. His presence cast a conspicuous shadow the banquet ballroom.

"It's good to have him here," said Johnson, who beamed and shook hands throughout. "It's something that needs to happen."

When Johnson stood before the crowd later to introduce Landry, however, his beam seemed to take on a nervous stumble.

Jimmy first called up his quarterback, Troy Aikman, and then Staubach.

Johnson said, "I think everyone needs to stand up now and let's have the one person that's missing, Tom Landry."

With the crowd standing, the cameras flashing and the Kim Kelly Orchestra playing "Deep in the Heart of Texas," Jimmy blurted out, "Let's get real close, like we really do like each other."

Johnson quickly recovered, paying tribute to Landry's great legacy, and added, "This is a special feeling for me." He truly seemed to mean it.

Landry? Well, alas, nothing new to report there.

"We made a lot of money, didn't we?" Tom said, referring to the two autographed helmets that sold for $14,000.

No, Landry said, he didn't see any deep symbolism in his presence last night. "I figured somebody else would, though," he said, with that vintage Landry stare.

"I just happened to have an open night. As a matter of fact, I'll be in Georgia tomorrow."

People don't understand, Landry repeated. He is a forgiving, Christian man. He harbors no ill will toward Johnson, nor the Cowboys. Life, he said, has simply taken him in another direction.

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