The lanky American strolled through the lobby of Meikles Hotel, drawing stares because of boots and the "Hell's cowboy boots and the "Hell's Angels" tattoo on his forearm - sensational attire in this conservative former British colony.

"Another one," an elderly Rhodesian matron, sipping 4 o'clock tea, moaned to her two companions. All three shook their heads in despair.

The women, members of Salisbury's upper-class white society, were referring to the new cast of characters who have recently become part of the Rhodesian drama - foreigners drawn by the military and political crises (expected to escalate since Rhodesia's rejection on Monday of a British plan for a negotiated settlement) in the rebellious Southern African territory.

In the staid and sleepy capital, the onslaught of "boomers" - anyone attracted to the "boom-boom" of weapons - has created a small sensation, disrupting the quiet British lifestyle of a country that has been ostracized by the world for more than 11 years and where outside contact has been largely restricted to South African tourists.

The man drawing stares was David Bufkin, 37, who gained notoriety in the United States last year as a mercenary recruiter for the Angolan civil war.

The 37-year-old former cropduster from Kerman, Calif., let the word slip during his visit last month that he was in Rhodesia a "double agent" on a joint CIA-Rhodesian intelligence operation aimed at breaking the Cuban intelligence network - although he appeared to spend most of his time drinking rum and coke in several local pubs.

Bufkin also claimed responsibility for exposing the Cuban intelligence network in Canada. Five Cubans, including two diplomats, were expelled from Canada earlier this month after Canadian officials investigated reports that Cubans were running a "spy school" in Montreal.

Bufkin told three journalists - an action that itself raised suspicions - that he had accepted an assignment from Cubans to obtain information for them in Rhodesia, but that he had secretely given information on the Cubans to the CIA. He said he then left for Rhodesia to expose other Cuban intelligence agents.

Both U.S. and Rhodesian officials have vehemently denied that Bufkin was working for them. One Rhodesian intelligence officer labeled it a "Walter Mitty fantasy. We don't need menu because he hated it and once said, "Even canned goods taste bad in the South."

Bob Considine, sportwriter and author, was probably one of Toots Shor's closest friends and spent a lot of time in the saloon.

[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]someone like Bufkin to help us flush out intelligence agents," he added angrily. Bufkin had actually come to join the Rhodesian Air Force, but had been rejected and would not be welcome if he tired to return, he said.

A government official explained the boomer phenomenon: "When economic sanctions were imposed (by the United Nations in 1968) we had a flood of confidence tricksters, guys trying to make quick money by peddling goods we could no longer buy on the open market.

"Now, with the war escalating, we're being flooded with war-mongers who are attracted by the blood and guts, not the principles we're fighting for. They come with fantastic stories about their experiences, but they often turn out to be losers."

The Rhodesian press is now running almost regular stories about visiting adventures. The Rev. David Hill, a long-haired young minister from San Antonio, Tex., who tucked a pistol in his cowboy boots, created quite a stir when the Rhodesian Herald quoted him as saying:

"What's wrong with carrying a weapon? The Lord said you have to turn your cheek, but he didn't say you had to turn it twice."

Hill, who said he was the son of Gen. David (Tex) Hill, a U.S. fighter pilot, made an extensive tour of the war-torn eastern highlands near the Mozambique border, preaching to troops and local residents. He said the Billy Graham evangelical organization was paying his expenses.

Some of the "boomers" are welcome, such as Robin Moore, author of "Green Berets," and Robert K. Brown, editor and publisher of "Soldier of Fortune." Both were allowed to tour the war zones - an area off-limits to other writers and journalists - with government escorts.

Moore has announced that he intends to write a book on the four-year-old gueerilla war, while Brown's magazine has been largely responsible for publishing information that led some 400 Americans to join the Rhodesian Army.

Ralph Moss, 31, an American black from Sacramento, Calif., made headlines once and appeared on nationwide television twice within 10 days of his arrival earlier this month after announcing his view that:

Race relations in Rhodesia are as good, it not better, than in the United States. There's goodwill among blacks and whites here, a genuine desire to work together.

"Black people are prospering here. They have greater opportunities than Africans in any other country on the continent."

Moss became the first foreign black to interview Prime Minister Ian Smith, and was feted at a dinner party given by ultra-conservative Foreign Minister P.K. Van Der Byl. Moss was also taken on an official government tour of military bases and allowed to interview a captureed African guerrilla.

Many among the new breed of visitors, however, are greeted with skepticism by the Rhodesian government as carpetbaggers trying to exploit Rhodesia's problems for personal advantage.

American Nazi Party deputy Paul Geoge Anderson infuriated officials when he arrived last October and began distributing what police called "racist literature." Police also said Anderson was the cause of several incidents at the Queens Hotel, which houses Salisbury's best-known, black dominated bar. He was deported after five days in Rhodesia.

Another turned away was Joe Belasario of the Volunteer Veterans for Vietnam, a group that once planned to return to Cambodia to renew efforts against the Vietcong, according to a Rhodesian government spokesman.

Belasario and two friends offered the government a unit of 100 Vietnam veterans who, they told army recruiters, could "move in and clean up the war." The army rejected the offer and the three left for neighboring Botswana, where Rhodesian police said they were picked up for passing bad checks.

The government has also cast a skeptical eye on some journalist veterans of the Vietnam and Middle East wars who have arrived in Rhodesia over the past few months as southern Africa became the newest hot spot.

A new regulation requiring foreigners to obtain work permits, renewable weekly, was largely initiated to give the goverment leverage over journalists who sensationalize or misreport stories about the guerrilla war and the political climate.

Even "foreign volunteers" for the army are scrutinized, despite the desperate need for white officers for the black-dominated security forces."The gung-ho types are welcome if their motive is sincere," a recruiting officer explained recently.

"But unfortunately a lot of them are now coming over just to witness the action, to be closer to it, not to make a contribution. We have to be more and more careful about who we accept," he said.