Chief Zee said to Boski, the gorilla, "String up Crazy Ray from the nearest goal post." This takes some explaining, which we'll get to right after advising Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea that not only is the National Football League alive, it is so good that RFK Stadium yesterday was the humming flying saucer of old, carrying 54,633 passengers on another Redskins-Cowboys trip.

Did the earth shake where you were? The Cowboys won, 24-10. For the sixth straight time, the cursed Cowboys did it. They handed the Redskins their first loss of the year. But hope breathed yet, and RFK Stadium literally trembled under foot-stomping applause, until very late when the Cowboys played so well their victory was guaranteed.

For Redskin loyalists, hope died only after the Cowboys succeeded on a fake punt and made two fortunate fumble recoveries that denied the local heroes one last chance. Only then did RFK fall silent, for on a summery December day the place buzzed with an urgency, anticipation and excitement that caused folks to step lively, chatter a note high and search the closets for any shirts with lettering that said, "I hate the Cowboys."

Obviously, although the players' strike has been over only three weeks, it is already forgiven if not forgotten here. Only 412 customers stayed away from soldout RFK yesterday; all, no doubt, with written excuses from their parents.

Came the last moment before kickoff, as Redskins kicker Jeff Hayes pranced forward, and fans rose in anxiety made nearly palpable by raucous cheers not heard here since -- since when? Maybe 1978, when Jimmy Carter celebrated Camp David by coming to RFK for a Big Game with the Cowboys.

How excited was Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke? The eternal orator couldn't speak. Instead, just before kickoff he held out his quivering hand in answer. " 'Nuff said," Cooke said.

"Everybody's excited," said Carlton Hughes, a dental technician from Warrenton, Va., who first saw the Redskins in Griffith Stadium, "because it's the Cowboys, it's the short season with the strike, and the 'Skins are 4-zip. Mostly, it's because nobody likes the Cowboys. They used to be very dirty players. Nasty. Raunchy."

Outside, where folks begged for tickets, Chief Zee marched in his red Indian costume with the burgundy and gold feathered headdress setting off his burgundy and gold war paint.

"Look what we caught," said Chief Zee, the Redskins' unofficial mascot.

Boski, presumably a man in a gorilla suit, held a rope ending in a noose around the neck of Crazy Ray, the Cowboys' mascot who wears white chaps and rides a stick horse.

"Cowboys gonna win," Crazy Ray said, at which point Chief Zee ordered Boski to tighten the noose. As for what Boski thought of the Cowboys, the hairy one said, "AaurchgggOOOG."

Any religion needs its princes of darkness as reminders to the faithful of what evil lurks in the minds of men. From Capitol Hill to Annandale to Riverdale to Gaithersburg, Redskin-fearing parents send their children to bed with scary admonitions best put in Willie Nelson's song, "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Cowboys."

It is with a capital C, isn't it? Viv Parker thinks so. She heard the song on the radio yesterday morning, just as her buddy, Myra Mahar, called from Dallas asking help to make it through another day in the outer darkness.

"I held the phone to the radio, so Myra could hear it," said Parker, who works for Washington Gas. "She's a Redskin fan stuck down there. She said, 'Please wear my Billy Kilmer shirt for old time's sake.' I told her I'd wear the shirt, but not that guy's number."

With tape, Parker turned the old 17 into "9 + 7." Those are numbers made famous by Sonny Jurgensen and Joe Theismann. "I told Myra not to worry, 'cause we got a team here called the mean hogs and the hogs are going to take care of Dallas."

As it happened, the Redskins' offensive line, nicknamed "Hogs," would not be good enough to do that chore. Seven times the Cowboys put Joe Theismann on his ear. There came a sense early on that the Cowboys, with three straight victories coming in, would do all the pretty things that have made them so good for so long, made them the darlings who dare call themselves "America's Team."

"That's why I don't like 'em," said Jack Keene, an engineer at Fairfax Hospital who came to RFK with an effigy created to insult Tony Dorsett. "I'm from South Dakota, and that's in America, and they aren't my team."

There's a chance these words so far are coming down too strongly on the poor Cowboys, who probably feed their pets and seldom burn down an orphanage. So a reporter, looking for balance, spotted a fellow wearing cowboy boots, a bucking-horse belt buckle and a 10-gallon Stetson with a pin in it that said, "Kiss Me, I'm Texan."

"I'm a Texan in exile here," Steve Sanders said cheerily. He's a fur buyer for the I. Magnin department store, only three years rescued from Houston. "There'll be a bunch of Texans in the end zone. We have the Texas flag and the whole bit . . . You can feel the excitement of a big game."

Sanders is okay, for a Texan. "Dallas can run against the Redskins, but this is the Redskins' year. The Redskins are writing a Cinderella story. They are the San Francisco 49ers of '82."

At 3:15, the Cowboys trotted onto the field in militaristic single file to loosen up.

Booooo, the fans said.

At 3:38, the Cowboys trotted off for final instructions from Tom Landry.

Booooo, the fans said.

Before 7 o'clock, those fans would boo the Redskins a time or two, but by game's end, the Cowboys clearly had demonstrated their superiority, and the 54,633 passengers left the flying saucer in respectful silence.

There would be another trip, another time, and, ironically, one of the happiest passengers will be Tony Dorsett, the Cowboys' star runner. "You either love coming into this stadium or you hate it," he said. "It's a crazy place, a lot of electricity. It gets you in the mood to play, all that yelling and screaming. If you're losing, they get on you."

Here, Dorsett smiled. "But it's the world's greatest place to win in."