Clyde Tombaugh boarded the train to Flagstaff in January 1929. He’d been invited by Vesto Slipher for a trial period – nobody in Flagstaff knew much about Tombaugh beyond the fact that he’d made his own telescope and was in need of work. He came cheap, anyway — he had only a high school degree.
Clyde could indeed (as I have it in Percival’s Planet) have been carrying with him the new Popular Science Monthly, which featured articles on the “world’s greatest telescope,” the “marvels of the newest electric ocean liner”, and, for the auto buffs, “Reverse Pliers Serve as Handy Valve Lifters.” Clyde’s train left Larned, Kansas, on January 14, 1929 – the day after another Arizona legend, Wyatt Earp, died in a Los Angeles bungalow at the age of eighty, of chronic cystitis. (Whatever that is.)
Clyde was nervous, of course, not knowing what to expect in Flagstaff; and well he might have been. His future was in no way certain in Arizona. On February 7, 1929, three weeks after Tombaugh arrived, Vesto Slipher wrote (to Lowell Observatory trustee Roger Putnam, in Massachusetts):
Mr. Tombaugh, the young man from Kansas, has been here since about the middle of January. We think he is going to develop into a useful man. He has several good qualities that are going to make up we think for his meager training. He is looking forward to the arrival of the new objective and is eager to be working with it. He has good attitude; careful with apparatus, willing to do anything to make himself useful and is enthusiastic about learning and wants to do observing. We believe these qualities will after a time largely overcome his deficiency of schooling and training.
Slipher is not terribly impressed, perhaps. But Clyde costs him only $90 a month, and he is awfully dogged. So Slipher lets him stay.
Such a close thing life is, at every turn.